Outgoing HHS Secretary Azar Urges Trump to Condemn Violence, Says Riot Threatens Admin's Legacy

Outgoing Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar touted the Trump administration's "historic" success in developing a COVID-19 vaccine, but he warned President Donald Trump that the January 6 Capitol riot "threaten to tarnish" his legacy.

Azar, who was nominated by Trump as HHS secretary in November 2017, penned a letter to the White House Friday announcing his resignation at noon on Inauguration Day, January 20. He declined to follow fellow Cabinet members Betsy DeVos and Elaine Chao as they immediately resigned following the deadly riot, writing that it's "in the best interest of the people" for him and Trump to serve out their terms.

"Unfortunately, the actions and rhetoric following the election, especially during this past week, threaten to tarnish these and other historic legacies of this Administration. The attacks on the Capitol were an assault on our democracy and on the tradition of peaceful transitions of power that the United State of America first brought to the world," Azar wrote to the president.

"I implore you to continue to condemn unequivocally any form of violence, to demand that no one attempt to disrupt the inaugural activities in Washington or elsewhere, and to continue to support unreservedly the peaceful and orderly transition of power of January 20, 2021," Azar continued.

Azar stressed that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and continued delivery of vaccinations to Americans across the country requires a "smooth transition" into President-elect Joe Biden's administration. He said that "with the pandemic raging," there is a continued need to deliver vaccines and therapeutics to the American people, regardless of political transitions.

The Health and Human Services secretary highlighted what he views as the numerous healthcare accomplishments of the Trump administration. He touted the "reforms we put in place are the most consequential changes to how healthcare is financed and delivered since Medicare and Medicaid were enacted." He noted that the the administration also launched a campaign that could potentially wipe out HIV across America by 2030.

"We protected our nation against numerous infectious disease threats, such as Ebola, influenza, and measles, and led global efforts to protect public health," Azar wrote to the president. "We got e-cigarettes out of the hands of children. We have championed efforts to protect the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death and protected religious liberty and conscience," he continued, highlighting anti-abortion efforts by Republicans.

Newsweek reached out to the Department of Health and Human Services for additional remarks.

alex azar hhs trump accomplishments
Alex Azar, new Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services, speaks after being sworn in as President Donald J. Trump looks on January 29, 2018 at The White House in Washington, DC. CHRIS KLEPONIS / Staff/Getty Images