State dept. official quits over Trump's response to protests

Mary Elizabeth Taylor, the assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, submitted her resignation on Thursday in protest of President Trump's actions and comments around racial injustice. She was one of the administration’s highest-ranking Black Americans. 

Jacquelyn Martin/AP
People visit Lafayette Park where protest signs are seen on June 16, 2020 in Washington. Mary Elizabeth Taylor, the assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, has resigned because of President Trump's comments and actions surrounding racial injustice.

A State Department official resigned on Thursday over President Donald Trump's response to racial tensions sweeping the country over the killings of Black people by police, The Washington Post reported.

Mary Elizabeth Taylor, the assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs, said in her resignation letter that Trump's actions "cut sharply against my core values and convictions." At 30, Taylor was the youngest person to hold her position, and she was also the first Black woman in the job, according to the Post.

"The President's comments and actions surrounding racial injustice and Black Americans cut sharply against my core values and convictions," Ms. Taylor said in her resignation letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which was obtained by the Post. "I must follow the dictates of my conscience and resign as Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs."

The Washington Post reported

[Ms.] Taylor’s decision to leave the administration amid the racial tensions flaring nationwide appears to be the first high-profile resignation made in protest of the president’s actions that has been made public. One member of the Defense Science Board, James N. Miller, submitted his resignation to Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper shortly after [Mr.] Trump’s controversial photo op in Lafayette Square, but he was a former Obama administration official who had served on the committee that advises the Pentagon on science issues since 2014.

In contrast, [Ms.] Taylor was viewed as a loyal member of the administration and is a lifelong member of the Republican Party. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

[Supreme Court Justice Neil] Gorsuch administered [Ms.] Taylor’s oath of office at her swearing-in ceremony in December 2018 at the State Department. In her position as assistant secretary of state, [Ms.] Taylor served as [Mr.] Pompeo’s chief liaison to Capitol Hill.

Ms. Taylor's resignation follows weeks of turmoil sweeping the United States following the killing of George Floyd by a white police officer in Minneapolis. Protesters demanding justice for Mr. Floyd and other slain Black people, along with reforms to address police brutality, have taken to the streets, and the president has struggled to meet the moment. He has referred to protesters as "thugs," and his administration forcefully pushed aside peaceful protesters near the White House so he could go to a nearby church and pose holding a Bible.

The Washington Post reported: 

The White House has come under heavy criticism after federal authorities forcefully swept away peaceful demonstrators protesting [Mr.] Floyd’s death at Lafayette Square across the street from the White House. This cleared a path for [Mr.] Trump to walk several hundred yards to the iconic St. John’s Church, where he held up a Bible and posed for photographs. The White House has denied the protesters were removed so the president could hold a photo op.

On June 3, [Ms.] Taylor sent a message to her team of roughly 60 State Department employees, acknowledging that in the aftermath of [Mr.] Floyd’s death that her heart “is broken, in a way from which I’ve had to heal it countless times.”

The State Department declined to comment in response to a question from The Associated Press.

"We do not comment on personnel matters," the State Department said in an emailed response to a request for information about Ms. Taylor's resignation. There was no immediate explanation for why the State Department officials, including Mr. Pompeo and other top aides, had chosen to comment extensively on the decision to fire the department's Inspector General Steve Linick in May.

In her role in the Trump administration, Ms. Taylor helped guide more than 400 presidential appointments through the Senate, including those of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and CIA director Gina Haspel, the Post reported.

This story was reported by The Associated Press. Material from The Washington Post was used in this report. 

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