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Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Has Resigned, Citing The Deadly Capitol Riot As Her “Inflection Point”

The billionaire Republican megadonor was embattled for much of her tenure in the Trump administration.

Posted on January 7, 2021, at 9:47 p.m. ET

A smiling Trump points to a smiling DeVos as they stand together outside the White House on a sunny day
Carolyn Kaster / AP

Donald Trump and Betsy DeVos in 2016.

Betsy DeVos, President Donald Trump’s unpopular education secretary, became the second Cabinet member to resign Thursday citing the attempted coup on the US Capitol.

In a letter to Trump provided to BuzzFeed News, DeVos said, “There is no mistaking the impact your rhetoric had on the situation, and it is an inflection point for me.”

“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 protestors,” DeVos wrote.

DeVos, a billionaire megadonor who had no experience in government or within school classrooms before she became education secretary, follows Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, who earlier on Thursday also announced she was quitting because of the “entirely avoidable” insurrection provoked by Trump’s rhetoric.

But DeVos is most likely to be remembered for her unusually controversial tenure at the helm of the Education Department, a position that usually attracts little public attention. She was a target of left-wing ire from the day of her Senate confirmation hearing, when she struggled to answer basic policy questions.

A relentless advocate for school choice, especially private and religious schools, DeVos was able to make little headway on the issue during her tenure. Instead, she oversaw a department that stripped guidelines meant to protect transgender students and revamped rules to address sexual assault on college campuses.

DeVos’s ultimate goal was to dramatically scale back the size and budget of the federal government in education. “It would be fine with me to have myself worked out of a job,” DeVos said early on.

Under her leadership, the Education Department shrank in size and influence, cutting staff dramatically in places like its Office for Civil Rights and ceding some of its power to regulate schools and colleges.

During the 2020 Democratic primary, promises to replace DeVos were often the most reliable source of applause for Democratic candidates on the campaign trail.

Last fall, in the face of the coronavirus pandemic, DeVos stood alongside Trump to advocate forcefully for schools to reopen, an issue she cited in her resignation letter.

“I know with certainty that history will show we were correct in our repeated urging of and support for schools reopening this year,” DeVos wrote to Trump.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.