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The nation is grappling with the aftermath one day after pro-Trump rioters rampaged through the U.S. Capitol and forced their way into a rare joint session of Congress.
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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos resigns in the wake of Capitol riot
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos became the second Cabinet member to resign Thursday, citing President Donald Trump's handling of a violent mob that stormed the U.S capitol a day earlier as an "inflection point."
DeVos, one of Trump's longest-serving Cabinet members, submitted her resignation in a letter to the president obtained by USA TODAY. She criticized Trump for using rhetoric that encouraged the violence that erupted and left four people dead.
"We should be highlighting and celebrating your Administration's many accomplishments on behalf of the American people. Instead, we are left to clean up the mess caused by violent protesters overruning the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to undermine the people's business," she wrote.
"That behavior was unconscionable for our country. There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is the inflection point for me."
DeVos' resignation came amid an administration staff exodus that includes Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger and First Lady Melania Trump's chief of staff Stephanie Grisham.
The president has faced mounting criticism from Democrats and former allies for inflaming tensions minutes before his supporters left a rally and overran the U.S. Capitol during a rare joint session to certify Joe Biden's Electoral College victory. Trump has since called for a peaceful transition of power but it has not stopped calls for his removal from office either by invoking the 25th Amendment or impeachment.
DeVos was one of Trump's few remaining original Cabinet members, a dwindling list that includes ChaoTreasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross..
— Courtney Subramanian and John Fritze
McConnell forces out Senate's top law enforcement official after Capitol siege
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., says the chamber's top law enforcement official has resigned after a request by the Kentucky Republican in the aftermath of the Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol.
McConnell said he asked for the resignation of Senate Sergeant at Arms Michael Stenger, who is tasked with securing the chamber and protecting its 100 senators, after the "serious failures" that led to Wednesday's deadly siege.
"Today I requested and received the resignation of Michael Stenger, the Senate Sergeant at Arms and Doorkeeper, effective immediately," McConnell said, adding that Stenger's deputy, Jennifer Hemingway, would take over. "I thank Jennifer in advance for her service as we begin to examine the serious failures that transpired yesterday and continue and strengthen our preparations for a safe and successful inauguration on January 20th.”
Stenger's ouster came hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced the House's top law enforcement official, House Sergeant at Arms Paul Irving, would also be resigning from the post.
"I have received notice from Mr. Irving that he will be submitting his resignation," Pelosi said. "Having said that, we'll have the after action review but it goes beyond the Capitol Police."
— Christal Hayes
In messaging shift, Trump calls for 'smooth transition of power
President Donald Trump on Thursday acknowledged President-elect Joe Biden’s election victory in his strongest words yet and called for a smooth transition of power at a time when he faces increasing criticism for his handling of the violence that erupted a day earlier at the U.S. Capitol.
“A new administration will be inaugurated on Jan. 20,” Trump said in a video posted on Twitter late Thursday. “My focus now turns to ensuring a smooth, orderly and seamless transition of power. This moment calls for healing and reconciliation.”
A messaging shift: Trump acknowledges Biden election win
Trump stopped short of conceding the election but acknowledged that the nation had “just been through an intense election and emotions are high.” He said “tempers must be cooled and calm restored.”
The video, one of several Trump has posted from the White House in recent weeks, was the latest effort to get ahold of the fallout from the chaos that unfolded Wednesday when a mob attacked the Capitol and disrupted the counting of Electoral College votes. He has been criticized from members of both parties for whipping up a crowd of supporters at a rally near the White House minutes before the Capitol was overrun.
Earlier Thursday, White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany condemned the violence in brief remarks from the White House and reiterated the administration’s commitment to a peaceful transfer of power on Jan. 20.
— John Fritze and Courtney Subramanian
Capitol police chief resigns amid criticism of law enforcement response
U.S. Capitol Police Chief Steven Sund will resign amid widespread criticism of the agency's handling of a security breach that allowed protesters to storm the Capitol, a spokesperson said Thursday.
Sund's resignation, effective Jan. 16, came just hours after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called for him to leave his post, citing a "failure of leadership at the top of the Capitol Police." Paul Irving, the House Sergeant at Arms, the chamber's top law enforcement official in charge of protecting lawmakers, has also resigned.
The events on Wednesday have raised questions about what many saw as an anemic law enforcement response that failed to protect what should've been the most secure building in Washington, D.C. Republican and Democratic lawmakers have already called for congressional investigations.
'Unfathomable': Capitol Police security breakdown prompts chief's resignation
Facing mounting criticism, Sund said the department had "a robust plan to address anticipated First Amendment activities." Still, questions remain about why rioters were not immediately arrested as they forced their way inside the Capitol. The lack of swift action made it difficult for investigators to track down those who participated in the breach, Acting U.S. Attorney Michael Sherwin told reporters Thursday.
"We have a lot of lessons to learn from this ... Things obviously could've been done better," Sherwin said.
— Kristine Phillips and Kevin Johnson
GOP lawmaker who switched parties to back Trump says he doesn't have regrets
Republican Rep. Jeff Van Drew said Thursday that while he wished Trump had done more to calm the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol one day earlier, he did not regret his decision to change parties during Trump's impeachment in 2019 to help Republicans defend the president.
The New Jersey Republican, like his colleagues, was forced to shelter in place for hours as law enforcement worked the secure the building after dozens of Trump supporters blew past police and took over the Capitol. He said after an emergency message informed those in the complex to get to a secure area, he watched the ongoing protests from his office with staff and aides.
But while some of his Republican colleagues have broken heavily with the president – with one even calling for his removal – Van Drew stayed tame in his criticisms of Trump in an interview with USA TODAY, saying he did not have any regrets over his past decisions that meshed his political future with that of Trump's.
"You can't regret things in life. You make decisions upon the situations that exist then, and what is going on then. And we also did accomplish a lot of good goals," he said, noting Trump's work on strengthening the military and on reducing America's oil independence. "Not everything was bad. And absolutely, people make bad mistakes. And this is one of them. But that doesn't mean that you suddenly, you know, regret everything that you've done before."
Van Drew said he didn't agree with Trump's approach during the day as the president seemed to incite the crowds, speaking at a rally earlier in the day and continuing to claim inaccurately on social media that he'd won the election.
"I wish that he had come right out – he has a lot of strength and pull with these people – and just gotten right into the mix and said, 'Hey, you know, cut it out. We're not doing this. This is this is not our way,' " Van Drew said. "I wanted him to do more."
As far as his political future, Van Drew said he plans to continue serving as a Republican and was not considering going back to the Democratic caucus.
— Christal Hayes
'We condemn it' White House press secretary says of riots
White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany on Thursday condemned the violence that erupted in the U.S. Capitol a day earlier as President Donald Trump faces mounting criticism for his role in whipping up a mob that stormed the building.
McEnany's brief remarks came as a growing chorus of Democrats and others have called on Trump to be removed from office for his role in urging a crowd of supporters Wednesday to march on the Capitol. Trump has come under enormous pressure, including from some Republicans, for his handling of the chaos.
"The violence we saw yesterday was appalling, reprehensible and antithetical to the American way," McEnany said. "We condemn it."
McEnany also said that people "working in this building" were working to ensure a peaceful transfer of power when President-elect Joe Biden is sworn in on Jan. 20.
"Those who violently besieged our Capitol are the opposite of everything this administration stands for," McEnany said. "The core value of our administration is the idea that all citizens have the right to live in safety, peace and freedom."
– John Fritze and Michael Collins
John Kelly, former White House chief of staff, says he would vote to remove Trump
John Kelly, former chief of staff to President Donald Trump, said the president’s Cabinet should meet to discuss invoking the 25th Amendment to remove Trump from office, adding he would vote to do so if he served in the Cabinet today.
Kelly made the comments Wednesday afternoon in an interview on CNN with reporter Jake Tapper.
“I think, Jake, that the Cabinet should meet and have a discussion,” he said. “I don’t think it will happen. But I think the Cabinet should meet and discuss this. Because the behavior yesterday, and the weeks and months before that, has just been outrageous by the president. What happened on Capitol Hill yesterday was a direct result of his poisoning the minds of people with the lies and the frauds.”
At first, Kelly hesitated when asked whether he would vote to remove Trump from office right now if he were in the Cabinet.
“Yes, I would,” he then said. “The one thing we have going for us here, Jake, is it’s only 13 days. And no one – as indicated yesterday by our vice president – no one around him anymore is going to break the law. He can give all the orders he wants, and no one is going to break the law. And we saw Vice President Pence stand his ground yesterday.”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer have pushed for Pence and the Cabinet to invoke the 25th Amendment to remove Trump before his term ends in two weeks. Pelosi told reporters she would be prepared to vote on articles of impeachment if it doesn’t happen.
Kelly, a retired general who also served as Trump's secretary for the Department of Homeland Security, left the White House in January 2019. After initially holding back criticism, Kelly in June said “we need to look harder at who we elect” after Trump used the military to break up a protest outside the White House.
Trump excoriated Kelly in September, saying he was "exhausted" and "unable to handle the pressure" as his former chief of staff. It came after The Atlantic magazine reported Trump accompanied Kelly on a 2017 Memorial Day visit to his son's grave at Arlington National Cemetery and openly questioned the slain Marine's sacrifice.
– Joey Garrison
Trump phones in to RNC meeting, doesn't mention calls for his removal
President Donald Trump phoned in to a Thursday breakfast meeting of the Republican National Committee winter conference as lawmakers call for him to be removed from office following violent riots at the U.S. Capitol.
Trump, who had considered giving a speech to the RNC, perhaps by video, called in to express regrets for missing the event, said two people familiar with the call, which lasted about a minute and took place during a private meeting.
The president did not mention his vast political troubles, including calls for his removal from office after Wednesday's invasion of the U.S. Capitol by Trump supporters protesting the Electoral College count. Trump had egged on supporters to protest the vote that confirmed the victory of President-elect Joe Biden.
Members cheered Trump during his brief phone call, officials said.
The Republicans, who are meeting at Amelia Island, Fla., near Jacksonville, have closed most of their sessions to the media. The only public event is scheduled for Friday morning, when members are expected to reelect Trump ally Ronna McDaniel as the party chairwoman.
– David Jackson
Pelosi says the House's chief law enforcement official is resigning, calls for Capitol Police chief to resign
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said the House Sergeant at Arms – the chamber's top law enforcement official – is resigning in the aftermath of Wednesday's siege on the Capitol.
Paul Irving, who serves as the House's chief officer in charge of securing the building and tasked with overseeing the safety of lawmakers, was a target of criticism after the intense security breach that led to dozens of Trump protesters storming the Capitol.
"I have received notice from Mr. Irving that he will be submitting his resignation," Pelosi said. "Having said that, we'll have the after action review but it goes beyond the Capitol Police."
The California Democrat also called for the resignation of the Capitol Police Chief, Steven Sund, calling it a "failure of leadership at the top of the Capitol Police." Pelosi added that she hadn't heard from Sund since Wednesday's attack. "He hasn't even called us since this happened."
– Christal Hayes
'This man is deadly': Pelosi calls for Trump's removal from office using 25th Amendment
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined the growing calls by many Democrats to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove President Donald Trump from office in the final days of his presidency, telling reporters at a press conference that if this wasn't done the House would be prepared to vote on articles of impeachment.
"I join with the Senate Democratic leader in calling on the vice president to remove this president by immediately invoking the 25th amendment," she told reporters. "If the vice president and Cabinet do not act, the Congress may be prepared to move forward with impeachment."
Pelosi delivered stinging comments about Trump, calling him a dangerous man who the country – for its own safety – can't afford to keep in the White House for his final two weeks of his term.
"This man is deadly – to our democracy and to our people," Pelosi said.
Her remarks come a day after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol as they counted electoral votes, disrupting proceedings and forcing lawmakers to evacuate. Pelosi's office was among those that were ransacked. Some congressional Democrats laid the blame on Trump for inciting the riot, calling for his removal from office or impeachment for a second time.
"The President has committed an unspeakable assault on our nation and our people," she said, characterizing the insurrection from the pro-Trump rioters as "acts of sedition and acts of cowardice."
Pelosi was visibly upset as she spoke about the trauma of congressional staff members who were forced to lock themselves in rooms and hide under desks while "terrorists" banged on doors. “They didn’t sign up for that,” she said.
"To meet with them and to see how frightened they were because these thugs – these Trump thugs – decided that they would desecrate the Capitol with no thought what harm they might do physically, psychologically or in any other way.
“And they will be prosecuted,” she added. “They will be prosecuted. Justice will be done."
Pelosi's comments came shortly after the Senate's top Democrat, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, joined the chorus of lawmakers calling on Vice President Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment and move with the Cabinet to remove Trump from office. If they failed to do so, Congress needed to reconvene to impeach Trump for a second time, he said.
Declaring "the president must be held accountable again," Pelosi put out a challenge to Trump's Cabinet: "Ask each member of the Cabinet, do they stand by these actions? Are they ready to say in the next 13 days, this dangerous man can do further harm on this country?"
"We are in a dangerous place in this country as long as Donald Trump still sits in the White House," she said.
Pelosi said she's not sure when Pence will respond to her call to trigger the 25th Amendment
"I don't think that it will take long to get an answer form the vice president. It will be yes or it will be no," she said.
"I say I pray for the president every day, and I do. Last night was the hardest day for me. At 5 o'clock in the morning, when I finally got home, as I was praying at night, I said, 'You gotta keep praying for him, you've gotta keep praying for him. Maybe, maybe there's some hope.' But we can't take that chance because people's lives are at stake as well as our democracy," she said.
– Christal Hayes and Joey Garrison
Biden says Trump administration treats protesters differently
President-elect Joe Biden took a personal moment while introducing his nominees to the Justice Department to point out unequal treatment he said rioters received while swarming the Capitol on Wednesday, in contrast to how Black Lives Matter protesters were treated during summer protests for racial justice.
Biden said his granddaughter, Finnegan, sent him a picture of troops in military gear standing on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during Black Lives Matter protests. Yet D.C. and Capitol police were unable to prevent rioters Wednesday from smashing windows and doors to break into the Capitol.
“This isn’t fair,” Biden quoted Finnegan as saying.
Biden said there is no question the Trump administration treated Black protesters differently than the rioters challenging the congressional count of the Electoral College votes confirming that Biden beat President Donald Trump.
"Nobody can tell me that if it was a group of Black Lives Matter protesters that they wouldn't have been treated differently than the thugs who stormed the Capitol,' Biden said. "We all know that is true. And it is unacceptable – totally unacceptable."
– Bart Jansen
Transportation Secretary Chao to resign
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao will resign from her position, she announced Thursday.
Chao, who is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is the first Cabinet secretary to resign after pro-Trump rioters stormed the U.S. Capitol Wednesday in an attempt to halt the counting of Electoral College votes.
"Yesterday, our country experienced a traumatic and entirely avoidable event as supporters of the President stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed," Chao said in a statement. "As I'm sure is the case with many of you, it has deeply troubled me in a way that I simply cannot set aside."
Chao noted her office would continue to help Pete Buttigieg, President-elect Joe Biden's choice for transportation secretary, transition into his role.
It has been the honor of a lifetime to serve the U.S. Department of Transportation. pic.twitter.com/rFxPsBoh6t
— Sec. Elaine Chao (@SecElaineChao) January 7, 2021
– Phillip Bailey
Schumer says he'll fire Senate Sergeant at Arms after Capitol riot
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer said Thursday the Senate Sergeant at Arms had to resign or would be fired following rioters' storming of the U.S. Capitol Wednesday during the electoral vote count.
“If Senate Sergeant Arms Stenger hasn't vacated the position by then, I will fire him as soon as Democrats have a majority in the Senate," Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement.
The Senate Sergeant at Arms is the Senate's highest-ranking law enforcement official. Michael Stenger currently holds the role.
Schumer is set to become the Senate majority leader as soon as Georgia Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock are sworn into the Senate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., called the breach of security a "massive failure" and vowed a "painstaking investigation and thorough review."
– Nicholas Wu
DOJ, FBI promise arrests, criminal charges after violence at Capitol
Federal officials on Thursday promised arrests and criminal charges are forthcoming against rioters who participated in the violence at the Capitol.
Acting Attorney General Jeffery Rosen said charges are expected Thursday and in the coming days and weeks.
“Yesterday, our Nation watched in disbelief as a mob breached the Capitol Building and required federal and local law enforcement to help restore order. The Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that those responsible for this attack on our Government and the rule of law face the full consequences of their actions under the law," Rosen said.
A mob of pro-Trump supporters stormed the Capitol Wednesday, prompting an hours-long lockdown and disrupting what should have been a largely ceremonial process of counting state-certified Electoral College votes. President Donald Trump has for weeks falsely claimed the election had been stolen from him and urged his supporters to go to the Capitol. Images of the aftermath showed broken windows and vandalized property.
One protester was shot and killed by a Capitol police officer during the melee.
In a separate statement Thursday, FBI Director Chris Wray described those who stormed the Capitol as "violent agitators and extremists" who incited violence under the guise of the First Amendment.
The FBI has created an online form for people to submit tips and video evidence.
– Kristine Phillips
National Guard troops, perimeter fence part off tighter security measures around Capitol
Thousands of National Guard troops will be arriving in Washington by the weekend, part of a stepped-up security effort local federal officials announced Thursday in the wake of an unprecedented riot at the U.S. Capitol Wednesday by pro-Trump supporters.
U.S. Army Secretary Ryan D. McCarthy said 850 troops already have been deployed to the U.S. Capitol grounds and that as many as 6,200 National Guard soldiers from around the region will be available by this weekend to help quell any lingering protests from Wednesday’s attack on the U.S. Capitol building.
In addition, McCarthy said a seven-foot “non-scalable” fence was being erected around the perimeter of the Capitol grounds which will be in place for at least 30 days. That period would include the Jan. 20 inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden who will take the oath of office on the west side of the Capitol.
Officials hope to prevent a repeat of Wednesday’s breach of the Capitol, where hundreds of rioters stormed into the building, destroyed offices and broke windows. They broke into the building after attending a rally near the White House where President Donald Trump exhorted them to go and support lawmakers trying to object to the ceremonial count of the Electoral College votes that gave Biden his election victory.
“The current president must be held accountable for this unprecedented attack on our democracy,” Washington, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said at a news conference Thursday. “What happened yesterday is textbook terrorism.”
Metropolitan DC Police Chief Robert Contee said 68 people were arrested including 41 on the grounds of the Capitol, many of them after the city imposed a 6 p.m. curfew Wednesday. Only one of the those arrested was from D.C.
The police are trying to identify many of the rioters by sharing images with local hotels, airports and FBI offices throughout the country.
– Ledyard King
Sen. Chuck Schumer: Trump should be removed from office
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer joined the growing calls among congressional Democrats to invoke the 25th Amendment and remove President Donald Trump from office following riots at the Capitol Wednesday.
Schumer, who is set to be the Senate majority leader when Georgia Democrats Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock take office, said Trump incited the riot and "should not hold office one day longer."
The New York Democrat said Vice President Mike Pence should invoke the 25th Amendment and move with the Cabinet to remove Trump from office. If they failed to do so, Congress needed to reconvene to impeach Trump for a second time, he said.
An administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the prospect of invoking the 25th Amendment has not been brought to the vice president.
After the riot, some congressional Democrats, laying the blame at Trump's feet for inciting the riot, have called for his removal from office.
Rep. Katherine Clark, D-Mass., the fourth-ranking House Democrat, seemed to endorse invoking the 25th Amendment in a Wednesday night statement saying Trump needed to be removed from office.
Some centrist Democrats called for the 25th Amendment to be invoked too. Rep. Suzan DelBene, D-Wash., the chair of the moderate New Democrat Coalition, said Wednesday the 25th Amendment needed to be invoked "for the good of the country."
And on MSNBC, Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., a close ally to President-elect Joe Biden, said "This is a fire that he first lit in Charlottesville, and that has only been building in intensity in the last few years, and will only be solved by the removal of President Trump."
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has not yet commented on the issue.
– Nicholas Wu and Maureen Groppe
White House pulls acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf's nomination after he urged Trump to 'strongly condemn' unrest
The White House on Thursday withdrew its nomination of Chad Wolf to be the permanent Department of Homeland Security secretary just over an hour after Wolf urged the president to "strongly condemn" the unrest at the U.S. Capitol.
Wolf, who serves as acting DHS secretary, joined several former and current administration officials in denouncing the president's supporters who violently forced their way into the Capitol building during a joint session of Congress to count the Electoral Votes to affirm President-elect Joe Biden's win. The upheaval led to 68 arrests and four deaths, including a woman who was shot inside the U.S. Capitol.
"What transpired yesterday was tragic and sickening. While I have consistently condemned political violence on both sides of the aisle, specifically violence directed at law enforcement, we now see some supporters of the President using violence as a means to achieve political ends," Wolf said in a statement.
White House spokesman Judd Deere said the withdrawal had no correlation to Wolf's statement.
"The withdrawal occurred yesterday and was not related at all to Wednesday’s events or the Acting Secretary’s comments this morning. Acting Secretary Wolf remains the acting secretary and continues to perform the duties of his office," Deere said in a statement.
The White House did not provide any details on why it withdrew the nomination.
The acting DHS secretary is the first Cabinet official to publicly call on Trump to roundly condemn the violence.
"This is unacceptable. These violent actions are unconscionable, and I implore the President and all elected officials to strongly condemn the violence that took place yesterday."
Wolf, who is abroad in the Middle East, added that he planned to remain in his position until Jan. 20, when Trump leaves office to ensure an "orderly transition" to Biden's administration.
– Courtney Subramanian
Barr calls Trump's actions 'betrayal of his office'
Former attorney general William Barr, once one of Trump's strongest defenders, issued a scathing account of the president's conduct, casting it as a "betrayal of his office."
“Orchestrating a mob to pressure Congress is inexcusable. The President’s conduct yesterday was a betrayal of his office and supporters,” Barr said in a statement Thursday.
– Kevin Johnson
Biden's win affirmed by Congress after day of rioting
President-elect Joe Biden's presidential victory was affirmed by Congress on Thursday hours after a pro-Trump rioters stormed the Capitol during a day of violence that sent lawmakers scrambling for cover and led to the deaths of four people.
The constitutionally required count of Electoral College votes, typically a brief ceremonial event, came to an abrupt halt as lawmakers were swiftly escorted away and people waving Trump flags were seen knocking down police barriers around the Capitol and walking through halls normally reserved for lawmakers and tourists.
Violence flared as Republican leaders engaged in a stunning and historic series of political maneuvers, with Trump demanding Vice President Mike Pence use his perch in the Senate to overturn the election – an outcome Pence had no authority to pursue.
Congress affirms Biden win: Electoral count is formalized after riots at the Capitol
Trump, who has raised baseless claims and conspiracy theories about election fraud, has refused to concede the election despite state-certified results showing Biden won the Electoral College, 306-232.
Once the Capitol was secured Wednesday evening, lawmakers resumed their session hold the formal count of the Electoral College results that showed Biden had defeated Trump in the Nov. 3 election. Lawmakers spent several hours debating GOP objections to the count before rejecting them.
Pence confirmed Biden as the winner at 3:41 a.m. EST.
Not long after, Trump released a statement through a White House social media account, acknowledging Biden's win, a first. "Even though I totally disagree with the outcome of the election, and the facts bear me out, nevertheless there will be an orderly transition on January 20th,” Trump's statement said.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Politics live updates: Betsy DeVos resigns, citing Capitol siege