The US health secretary, Alex Azar, warned Donald Trump in a letter that last week’s attack on the Capitol threatened the administration’s legacy, and he urged the president to support a peaceful transfer of power.
In the two-page, formal resignation letter, dated 12 January, Azar recited what he saw as the administration’s key accomplishments but voiced concern that last week’s siege in Washington and Trump’s false claims of widespread voter fraud “threaten to tarnish these and other historic legacies of this administration”.
“The attacks on the Capitol were an assault on our democracy and on the tradition of peaceful transitions of power,” Azar wrote.
“I implore you to continue to condemn unequivocally any form of violence, to demand that no one attempt to disrupt the inaugural activities in Washington or elsewhere, and to continue to support unreservedly the peaceful and orderly transition of power on January 20, 2021,” he added.
Azar says he will resign at noon on 20 January, when Joe Biden is sworn in.
Azar is not the first member of Trump’s cabinet to issue strong words in the wake of the attack, in which five people died and which led to the president’s second impeachment.
Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education secretary, resigned after of the attack, saying in a letter to the president that she blamed his “rhetoric” for “the mess caused by violent protestors overrunning the US Capitol in an attempt to undermine the people’s business”.
Elaine Chao, Trump’s transportation secretary, also resigned, calling the attacks “traumatic and entirely avoidable”.
Azar took up the role of health secretary in 2018, overseeing the department during the unprecedented coronavirus crisis, which has so far claimed the lives of nearly 400,000 Americans. Some experts are estimating half a million deaths could be possible by the end of February.
Earlier on Friday, Azar told NBC News the US did not have a reserve stockpile of Covid-19 vaccines, but it was confident that there would be enough produced for second doses.
“We now have enough confidence that our ongoing production will be quality and available to provide the second dose for people. So we’re not sitting on a reserve any more. We’ve made that available to the states to order,” Azar said.
The news on Friday came as Joe Biden called for a vast expansion of federal aid in order to vaccinate 100 million Americans in his first 100 days in office. Biden has tapped Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California, to lead the health department.