Mary Elizabeth Taylor was a top legislative official at the U.S. Department of State, who was with the Trump administration since 2017 — including as a special assistant to President Donald Trump himself. She is black and resigned Thursday over Trump’s handling of racial issues throughout historic nationwide protests against police brutality.
Taylor was the youngest-ever and the first black assistant secretary for legislative affairs at the State Department. She said in her resignation letter that she was following her conscience by resigning, the Washington Post reported.
The protests that have exploded in virtually every major city following George Floyd‘s killing by Minneapolis police have tested Trump’s already dodgy relationship with race issues, and Taylor said his responses left her no choice.
Here’s what you need to know about Mary Elizabeth Taylor and her resignation from the Trump administration:
1. Taylor Served as a Special Assistant to Trump in 2017 & Helped Guide Neil Gorsuch to a Successful Supreme Court Nomination
Taylor was an aide to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell before joining the White House Office of Legislative Affairs, where she helped shepherd Trump’s agenda into law by working with senators and Congressional representatives.
She helped get more than 400 appointments through Congress, the Washington Post reported. Most notable among those was that of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. Throughout the 2017 nomination hearings, she sat visibly behind Gorsuch, interacting with him, and was the subject of much social media adulation and speculation, according to Inside Edition.
At 30, she was the youngest-ever and first black person to serve in her role at the State Department.
2. She Resigned Thursday, Saying Trump’s Actions Were Contrary to Her ‘Core Values and Convictions’
Although she is reportedly a lifelong registered Republican and stayed with the Trump administration through numerous race-related firestorms, Trump’s response to nationwide unrest and outrage at police killings of black men was apparently a bridge too far.
In her letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, which was obtained by the Post, she said that recent events had changed the “trajectory of [her] life” and were molding her character.
“The President’s comments and actions surrounding racial injustice and Black Americans cut sharply against my core values and convictions,” she said. “I must follow the dictates of my conscience and resign as Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs.”
According to the New York Times, when Trump took office, two of three black assistant secretaries of state were asked to resign inside a week and a third did so soon after.
The State Department did not respond to Heavy’s request for comment on Taylor’s resignation or when her vacancy might be filled.
3. Trump Has Not Sought to Calm Racial Tensions in the Wake of Floyd’s Death & Appeared to Threaten Peaceful Protesters With Violence on Friday
Although Trump has repeatedly expressed sympathy for Floyd’s family, as well as those of other black men killed by police, he has also repeatedly hearkened back to the racially charged “law and order” rhetoric of Presidents Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan.
He has frequently — often in the morning — Tweeted the phrase “LAW & ORDER” with no context, ever since widespread protests over police brutality began.
LAW & ORDER!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 15, 2020
He has also often tweeted the debunked conspiracy theory that Antifa is, in an organized fashion, orchestrating protests that turn violent. He also recently insinuated that Martin Gugino, the 75-year-old Buffalo man who was pushed and seriously injured by police at a demonstration, was an “Antifa provocateur.”
And on Friday morning, Trump appeared to threaten protesters with violence should they show up at his controversial planned June 20 rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
Any protesters, anarchists, agitators, looters or lowlifes who are going to Oklahoma please understand, you will not be treated like you have been in New York, Seattle, or Minneapolis. It will be a much different scene!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) June 19, 2020
Trump had originally planned the rally — which has sparked widespread concern over potentially causing a fresh coronavirus outbreak — for June 19, or Juneteenth. The day celebrates the end of slavery in the United States, and the campaign was accused of either ignorance or insensitivity for planning the rally during the Floyd protests and on that sacred day, according to the New York Times.
The White House issued a statement Friday marking the occasion, writing, “On this day 155 years ago, African Americans in Texas first heard the righteous and long-overdue words of General Order Number 3: ‘All slaves are free.’”
"On this day 155 years ago, African Americans in Texas first heard the righteous and long-overdue words of General Order Number 3: 'All slaves are free.'"
Presidential Message on Juneteenth, 2020: https://t.co/kaPYTUgKgJ
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) June 19, 2020
4. Taylor’s Resignation Could Highlight the Lack of People of Color In Trump’s Cabinet, as Well as Serving as State Department Ambassadors
Taylor’s resignation could serve to highlight again the lack of diversity in the Trump administration. According to CNN, there is only one black person in Trump’s cabinet — Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson.
Carson this week did not offer support for Trump’s recent claim that he has done more for black Americans than any president since Abraham Lincoln, when asked on ABC’s This Week.
“To get into an argument about who has done the most probably is not productive, but it is good to acknowledge the things that have been done,” Carson said during a discussion of the Floyd protests.
And Democratic Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee condemned Trump for not fostering diversity in his administration.
Cohen noted in February that of Trump’s 250 federal judiciary nominations, only six have been African Americans, calling that a “disturbing and chilling number.”
“I’m concerned about the lack of diversity, the lack of care about diversity, that this administration shows in its appointments and in its actions,” Cohen said in a statement.
There are also only three black ambassadors serving the United States abroad, the Times reported.
5. Taylor Has Received Support on Twitter for Her Resignation, but Also Criticism
Some much needed courage coming from within the Trump Administration:
Mary Elizabeth Taylor writes, "The President’s comments and actions surrounding racial injustice and Black Americans cut sharply against my core values and convictions." https://t.co/gmDv26LA7h
— The Lincoln Project (@ProjectLincoln) June 18, 2020
The Lincoln Project, a prominent political action committee dedicated to removing Trump from the White House and attacking his high-profile supporters, founded by Republican “Never-Trumpers” Rick Wilson and Steve Schmidt, among others, tweeted support for Taylor Friday.
“Some much needed courage coming from within the Trump Administration,” they wrote.
Author and activist Amy Siskind wrote, “This is courage and patriotism.”
Mary Elizabeth Taylor resigned in protest from the State Dept. She writes: “Moments of upheaval can change you".., Trump's "comments and actions surrounding racial injustice and Black Americans cut sharply against my core values and convictions."
This is courage & patriotism. pic.twitter.com/mn6mD64CHB
— Amy Siskind 🏳️🌈 (@Amy_Siskind) June 19, 2020
However, Susan Rice, the former national security advisor, was less impressed with the news, NBC’s Andrea Mitchell reported.
“I would say better late than never,” Rice said, according to Mitchell. “To serve an administration which has been racist to its core the last three and a half years — it’s been an administration whose record on race is just disgraceful.”
Author and director Raquel Cepeda also said that Taylor should have resigned on principle long ago.
I can’t believe that Mary Elizabeth Taylor would serve under #BunkerTrump in the first place. He didn’t just become a racist, xenophobic, family separating, divisive idiot. Wow. https://t.co/HNFgbOcfEg
— Raquel Cepeda (@RaquelCepeda) June 19, 2020
“I can’t believe that Mary Elizabeth Taylor would serve under #BunkerTrump in the first place,” she wrote. “He didn’t just become a racist, xenophobic, family separating, divisive idiot. Wow.”