Health and Human Services Secretary, Alex Azar at the White House on August 23, 2020 in Washington, DC.
Pete Marovich | Getty Images
Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar is resigning on Jan 20, NBC News confirmed on Friday.
In his resignation letter dated Jan. 12, Azar mentions the riot at the U.S. Capitol last week, where a violent mob of President Donald Trump’s supporters breached the building, injuring dozens of police officers and causing four deaths.
Azar wrote that “the actions and rhetoric following the election, especially during the past week, threaten to tarnish” the 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’s resignation came after U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao and several other Trump administration officials resigned after the president was accused of inciting the violence by directing protesters to head to the U.S. Capitol where lawmakers were finalizing President-elect Joe Biden’s win. The mob descended on the Capitol building Wednesday shortly after proceedings began to count the Electoral College votes and confirm Biden’s election.
In a tweet last week, Azar condemned the riot, saying he was “disgusted.”
“Physical violence and the desecration of this hallowed symbol of our democracy must end. People must immediately and peacefully disperse,” he said on Twitter.
Trump selected Azar, a former pharmaceutical executive, to head the U.S. agency in late 2017, replacing Trump’s first HHS chief, Dr. Tom Price. His department is responsible for overseeing the sprawling Medicare and Medicaid programs as well as U.S. public health, medical research and the safety of food and drugs. He’s been an integral figure in the administration’s Covid-19 response.
Prior to his role, Azar served as the department’s general counsel from 2001 to 2005 and deputy secretary from 2005 to 2007. From 2012 to 2017, he was president of Lilly USA, the American arm of drug giant Eli Lilly.
Azar’s resignation comes amid a once-in-a-century pandemic. The U.S. currently has more than 23.33 million coronavirus cases and has recorded the most virus deaths by a wide margin, with more than 389,000 confirmed fatalities so far, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.
Federal and state officials are racing to distribute vaccines to prevent Covid-19 and bring an end to the pandemic.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.