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DOT chief Elaine Chao to resign

Resignation follows storming of U.S. Capitol by pro-Trump demonstrators

Photo: U.S. DOT

U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao is resigning following the storming of the U.S. Capitol yesterday by pro-Trump demonstrators.

“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 stated in a message to DOT employees on Thursday and included in a tweet. “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 said her resignation is effective next Monday and that her agency will work to help with the transition of incoming DOT Secretary nominee Pete Buttigieg.

There was no immediate word on who would run the agency until Buttigieg is confirmed. DOT General Counsel Steve Bradbury was authorized in September 2019 by President Donald Trump to “perform the functions and duties” of the Office of Deputy Secretary of Transportation.

Chao, who is married to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Kentucky, served as U.S. secretary of labor from 2001-January 2009.

After being nominated by President Trump to lead DOT in 2017, Chao oversaw a push by the administration to direct more infrastructure investment to rural areas. She also led efforts by DOT to streamline regulations affecting surface transportation policy, as well as efforts to automate passenger and heavy-duty trucks.

In commenting on her resignation, American Trucking Associations President and CEO Chris Spear called Chao a “strong leader and a tremendous partner” on issues affecting trucking.

“Her leadership throughout the COVID pandemic, ensuring that trucks and truck drivers could continue doing their essential work – despite the many barriers set in front of them – was exemplary and an example of her commitment to this country,” Spear said.

“I want to thank Secretary Chao for her service to the Department of Transportation, our country, and the American people,” said Sam Graves, R-Missouri, Ranking Member of the House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee. “She has been a champion of infrastructure and transportation safety, effectively leading the Department over the last four years.”

Chao began her executive career in public service working on transportation and trade issues at the White House. She then served as deputy maritime administrator, U.S. Department of Transportation, followed by chairwoman of the Federal Maritime Commission and then deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Trump announced on Dec. 8 his intent to appoint Chao to be a member of the Board of Trustees of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

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John Gallagher

Based in Washington, D.C., John specializes in regulation and legislation affecting all sectors of freight transportation. He has covered rail, trucking and maritime issues since 1993 for a variety of publications based in the U.S. and the U.K. John began business reporting in 1993 at Broadcasting & Cable Magazine. He graduated from Florida State University majoring in English and business.