The Many People Who Have Quit On Donald Trump

Donald Trump's time as the 45th President of the United States came to end on Jan. 20, 2021, after President Joe Biden was sworn in following a contentious election, several failed lawsuits, and an attempted insurrection by Trump supporters, who stormed the Capitol earlier that month. Trump's presidency will go down in history for way too many things for us to list here, but a constant in his administration was that the people within it didn't usually last long.

The Brookings Institute found that Trump's "A Team," which was "made up of members of the executive office of the president," had a 92 percent turnover rate, and that number doesn't include cabinet secretaries. Whether they resigned for various reasons or were fired because Trump no longer found them useful, it seemed that there was constant parade of people departing the White House from Trump's inauguration to his farewell address.

We'd be here forever if we attempted to focus on them all, so we're bringing you the heavy-hitters — those who resigned, for better or worse, and became household names during Trump's presidency. Here are the many people who quit on Donald Trump.

James Mattis: Donald Trump 'does not even pretend to try' to unite Americans

Retired United States Marine Corps four-star general James Mattis was one of the biggest names in Donald Trump's administration when he was appointed secretary of defense on Jan. 20, 2017. Having worked under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, Mattis was seen as one of the "adults in the room" at the start of Trump's presidency.

However, almost two years later, Mattis resigned his position on Dec. 20, 2018, after "he decided that Mr. Trump's decision to withdraw roughly 2,000 American troops from Syria was a step too far" (via The New York Times). But Trump claimed that he "essentially" fired Mattis over his poor performance, according to the outlet. "What's he done for me? How has he done in Afghanistan? Not too good," Trump said, before falsely claiming, "As you know, President Obama fired him, and essentially so did I."

Following the nationwide protests over George Floyd's killing while in Minneapolis police custody in the summer of 2020, Mattis told The Atlantic, "Donald Trump is the first president in my lifetime who does not try to unite the American people — does not even pretend to try. Instead, he tries to divide us." He added, "We are witnessing the consequences of three years without mature leadership. We can unite without him, drawing on the strengths inherent in our civil society."

Kellyanne Conway quit on Donald Trump for personal reasons

One of the longest tenured members in the Trump administration, Kellyanne Conway served as senior counselor to the president from his inauguration to her resignation on August 23, 2020. Conway became a household name for bringing the phrase "alternative facts" into the lexicon, but she's unique in the fact that she resigned for personal reasons. Her decision to step down was all about her daughter and viral TikTok star, Claudia Conway, whose videos showed a fractured family life and allegations of abuse.

Kellyanne announced in a statement that she and her husband, Trump critic George Conway, were stepping back from politics to focus on their family. "We disagree about plenty, but we are united on what matters most: the kids," she wrote (via The Washington Post). "Our four children are teens and 'tweens starting a new academic year in the middle school and high school that will be conducted remotely from home for at least a few months. As millions of parents nationwide know, kids 'doing school from home' requires a level of attention and vigilance that is as unusual as these times." Kellyanne added, "I will announce future plans. For now, and for my beloved children, it will be less drama, more mama."

During a January 2021 appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher, Conway falsely claimed that Trump "built the greatest economy we had" (via The Guardian), but admitted the Capitol riots were "horrible, inexcusable, disgraceful."

John F. Kelly was no longer on speaking terms with Donald Trump before he was ousted

Retired four-star Marine general John F. Kelly was appointed White House chief of staff in late July 2017, after Trump fired Reince Priebus (via The New York Times). Kelly got to work quickly: Within a month of taking the job, Kelly had fired White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci and chief strategist Steve Bannon.

However, the honeymoon between Trump and Kelly didn't last long. By early 2018, Trump reportedly complained that he was "tired of being told no" by Kelly (via CBS News), and started making decisions without him. By December of that year, Trump and Kelly were allegedly no longer on speaking terms, and sources inside the West Wing told CNN that Kelly's resignation was imminent. White House budget director Mick Mulvaney replaced Kelly the following week, per Fox News.

During a 2020 interview with The Atlantic, Kelly didn't mince words about his time in the White House. "The vast majority of people who worked in the White House were decent people who were doing the best they could to serve the nation," he said. "They've unfortunately paid quite a price for that in reputation and future employment. They don't deserve that. They deserve better than that, because they kept the train from careening off the tracks." Kelly added, "The climate — the work environment — is always set by the boss, and people, generally speaking, endured it as long as they could. Until they couldn't."

John Bolton: Republicans need to 'remove the taint of what Trump has done'

John Bolton assumed the role of national security advisor in April 2018 (via NBC News). A foreign policy hawk who never saw a regime change or war he didn't like, Bolton's tenure was marked by increasing military tensions with other nations, including pressuring Trump to withdraw from the Iran deal and attempting to persuade Trump to go to war with North Korea.

Their marriage didn't last long. On Sept. 10, 2020, Trump announced that he had fired Bolton. "I informed John Bolton last night that his services are no longer needed at the White House. I disagreed strongly with many of his suggestions, as did others in the Administration, and therefore I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning," Trump tweeted, according to NBC News. "I asked John for his resignation, which was given to me this morning. I thank John very much for his service. I will be naming a new National Security Advisor next week."

During a January 2021 interview with MSNBC, per Politico, Bolton told Katy Tur that the Republican Party needed to "remove the taint of what Trump has done" to both the party and the country. "And while I think the damage is considerable, I think it can be repaired, and it should be repaired," he said. "And it should be — from the purely limited perspective of the party, it should be the highest priority going forward."

Elaine Chao was 'deeply troubled' over the Capitol riots

On Jan. 7, 2021, transportation secretary and wife of former Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, Elaine Chao, resigned from her position. She was one of the first members of the Trump administration, having been "sworn in during Trump's second week in office," The Washington Post reports. However, Chao was also the first cabinet official to resign in the wake of the Capitol riots that took place on the day prior.

In an email addressed to her department's staff, Chao wrote: "Yesterday, our country experienced a traumatic and entirely avoidable event as supporters of the President stormed the Capitol building following a rally he addressed. 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." She continued, "Today, I am announcing my resignation as U.S. Secretary of Transportation, to take effect on Monday, January 11, 2021. We will help my announced successor Mayor Pete Buttigieg, with taking on the responsibility of running this wonderful department."

For some, Chao's dissent from the Trump administration was too little too late, with the executive director of the Asian American Federation, Jo-Ann Yoo, telling NBC News that the "damage has been done [to her reputation and credibility]." She added, "Elaine Chao was complicit in creating a politics of toxicity and cynicism. Her decision can only be seen in that context."

Betsy DeVos quit on Donald Trump after the Capitol riots

One of the most polarizing members of Trump's cabinet, secretary of education Betsy DeVos became the second official to resign in the wake of the Capitol riots. In her blistering resignation letter, obtained by The New York Times, DeVos didn't hold back, blaming Donald Trump for inciting the insurrectionists. 

"We should be highlighting and celebrating your administration's many accomplishments on behalf of the American people," DeVos wrote. "Instead, we are left to clean up the mess caused by violent protesters overrunning the U.S. Capitol in an attempt to undermine the people's business." She added, "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." In a Twitter statement dated the same day as the riots, DeVos wrote that "the eyes of America's children and students ... are watching what is unfolding in Washington today." She added, "The peaceful transfer of power is what separates American representative democracy from banana republics."

For her part, the president of the National Education Association, Becky Pringle, took to Twitter to criticize the move, writing, "Her complicity, cowardice, and complete incompetence will be her legacy. #DoYourJob ... Resigning 13 days before the end of this administration does nothing to erase the harm DeVos has done to this country's students, their families and educators."

Chad Wolf said Donald Trump lost 'moral high ground' after the Capitol riots

Chad Wolf served as the acting secretary of homeland security for only 14 months before tendering his resignation on Jan. 11, 2021, due to the Capitol riots and questions surrounding the legality of his nomination. 

"I am saddened to take this step, as it was my intention to serve the Department until the end of this Administration," Wolf wrote in a letter to the State Department (via CNN)."Unfortunately, this action is warranted by recent events, including the ongoing and meritless court rulings regarding the validity of my authority as Acting Secretary. These events and concerns increasingly serve to divert attention and resources away from the important work of the Department in this critical time of a transition of power."

Two days later, Wolf claimed that Donald Trump was partially responsible for the insurrection at the Capitol during an interview with CNN. "He's the President. What he says matters," he said. "People listen to him — particularly supporters of his, I would say, really listen to him — so there is responsibility there." Wolf also blasted the former president for not speaking out against the rioters immediately. Noting that he was "disappointed," he added, "I think he had a role to do that. I think, unfortunately, the administration lost a little bit of the moral high ground on this issue by not coming out sooner on it."

Mick Mulvaney: 'We didn't sign up for what you saw last night'

As stated above, Mick Mulvaney was a Donald Trump loyalist who replaced John F. Kelly as White House chief of staff. However, the Capitol riots were a bridge too far. After seeing those events unfold, Mulvaney immediately resigned. "I called [Secretary of State] Mike Pompeo last night to let him know I was resigning from that. I can't do it. I can't stay," he told CNBC's Squawk Box"Those who choose to stay, and I have talked with some of them, are choosing to stay because they're worried the president might put someone worse in."

Mulvaney continued, "We didn't sign up for what you saw last night. We signed up for making America great again, we signed up for lower taxes and less regulation. The president has a long list of successes that we can be proud of." Reflecting on his time in the Trump administration, Mulvaney openly wondered if it was all worth it. "The folks who spent time away from our families, put our careers on the line to go work for Donald Trump, and we did have those successes to look back at, but now it will always be, 'Oh yeah, you work for the guy who tried to overtake the government,'" Mulvaney said. "That legacy is gone as of yesterday and that's extraordinarily disappointing to those of us who work for him." 

Mulvaney's 11th hour resignation faced similar criticism to that of Elaine Chao and Betsy DeVos.

Stephanie Grisham resigned immediately after the Capitol riots

On the day of the Capitol riots, Stephanie Grisham — First Lady Melania Trump's chief of staff — resigned her position. "It has been an honor to serve the country in the @WhiteHouse. I am very proud to have been a part of @FLOTUS @MELANIATRUMP mission to help children everywhere, & proud of the many accomplishments of this Administration. Signing off now," she tweeted.

According to CNN, Grisham worked on the Trump campaign in 2015, before entering "the White House as deputy press secretary under Sean Spicer." She then transitioned into the role of White House communications director, before becoming chief of staff to the first lady in April 2020. "It has been an honor to serve the country in the White House," Grisham said in a statement to the publication. "I am very proud to have been a part of Mrs. Trump's mission to help children everywhere, and proud of the many accomplishments of this Administration."

As of this writing, while Melania has spoken out about the Capitol riots, she hasn't commented on Grisham's resignation since leaving the White House herself. However, political scientist Lauren A. Wright felt that the timing of it — and the lacking mention of the then-POTUS — was "very telling." She told The Washington Post, "It's meaningful that the president was nowhere in there when she had one of the most visible jobs in the White House as press secretary. It's impossible to separate the resignation from what happened today."

Don McGahn and John Dowd quit on Donald Trump during the Russian investigation

Lawyer Don McGahn previously served on the Federal Election Committee, before entering the West Wing as White House counsel for Donald Trump the day of his inauguration. McGahn became a household name to political news junkies during the Robert Mueller investigation into allegations of Russian interference into the 2016 election. According to a report by The New York Times, Trump "ordered" McGahn to fire Mueller, but "backed off" after McGahn "threatened to quit."

McGahn then "cooperated extensively" with Mueller, which led Trump (whom McGahn reportedly called "King Kong" due to his emotional outbursts) to publicly announc McGahn's plans to resign (via The New York Times). McGahn officially resigned on Oct. 17, 2018. Once Mueller's report was released, the dysfunction of Trump and McGahn's relationship was revealed. "Donald F. McGahn II, complained to Mr. Priebus that the president was trying to get him to 'do crazy s**t.' Mr. Trump was equally unhappy with Mr. McGahn, calling him a 'lying bastard,'" The New York Times wrote.

Trump's lead attorney in the Russian investigation, John Dowd, also submitted his resignation on March 22, 2018, due to the former president's unwillingness to heed his counsel. Dowd allegedly "complained to colleagues that Trump had ignored his advice and tweeted attacks on Mueller and other topics hours after Dowd and other advisers urged him not to," The Washington Post reports.