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Meanwhile At The White House: Resignations, Golfers And (Twitter) Radio Silence

An American flag flies over the White House on Thursday.
An American flag flies over the White House on Thursday.

Updated at 1:58 p.m. ET

The nation — and world — continued to reel, looking for answers after an angry and violent pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol on Wednesday, as television networks showed footage of the rampage on a loop and some called for severe action to be taken against President Trump.

Meanwhile, at the White House, the president prepared to award the Presidential Medal of Freedom – the nation's highest civilian honor – to three professional golfers: Annika Sorenstam, Gary Player and the late Babe Zaharias.

It's the kind of event that Trump, in normal times, would invite White House reporters to witness. But there was no expectation that would happen on Thursday.

Instead, there were rumblings of staff resignations, with more potentially on the way.

Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao announced her resignation Thursday, citing the "traumatic and entirely avoidable" events at the Capitol.

Matt Pottinger, the deputy national security adviser who had played a key role in Trump's China policy, resigned on Wednesday after the violence.

Ryan Tully, the National Security Council's senior director for European and Russian affairs – whom Trump had nominated to be an assistant secretary of state – followed Pottinger, resigning on Thursday, a source familiar with the resignation said.

Other officials made similar decisions. Mick Mulvaney, a former chief of staff to Trump and head of his Office of Management and Budget, told CNBC he left his post as special envoy to Northern Ireland.

"We didn't sign up for what you saw last night," Mulvaney said on CNBC.

Stephanie Grisham, chief of staff to first lady Melania Trump, and Sarah Matthews, a deputy press secretary, both announced their departures on Twitter.

As for Trump, after a few posts on Wednesday sympathizing with the mob but also telling them to go home, there was radio silence on social media, one of his favorite communications tools. Facebook and Instagram blocked Trump because of what CEO Mark Zuckerberg said was the risk that he would "incite violent insurrection," and Twitter locked his account for breaking its rules.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. Keith has chronicled the Trump administration from day one, putting this unorthodox presidency in context for NPR listeners, from early morning tweets to executive orders and investigations. She covered the final two years of the Obama presidency, and during the 2016 presidential campaign she was assigned to cover Hillary Clinton. In 2018, Keith was elected to serve on the board of the White House Correspondents' Association.
Ayesha Rascoe is a White House correspondent for NPR. She is currently covering her third presidential administration. Rascoe's White House coverage has included a number of high profile foreign trips, including President Trump's 2019 summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un in Hanoi, Vietnam, and President Obama's final NATO summit in Warsaw, Poland in 2016. As a part of the White House team, she's also a regular on the NPR Politics Podcast.
Franco Ordoñez is a White House Correspondent for NPR's Washington Desk. Before he came to NPR in 2019, Ordoñez covered the White House for McClatchy. He has also written about diplomatic affairs, foreign policy and immigration, and has been a correspondent in Cuba, Colombia, Mexico and Haiti.