The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Opinion A State Department official issues a principled rebuke of Trump by resigning

Mary Elizabeth Taylor at the Defending Freedom Luncheon at Trump International Hotel in Washington in 2017.
Mary Elizabeth Taylor at the Defending Freedom Luncheon at Trump International Hotel in Washington in 2017. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)
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CORE VALUES. Convictions. Dictates of conscience. Those are concepts not generally associated with those who have chosen to serve in the principle-free administration of President Trump. So it was striking — indeed, refreshing — to see a senior official in the State Department invoke and, more importantly, act on those tenets in protest of the president’s incendiary handling of racial tensions heightened by the killing of George Floyd.

Mary Elizabeth Taylor, assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs and one of the administration’s highest-ranking African Americans, submitted her resignation Thursday with a rebuke of Mr. Trump’s response to nationwide protests against racial inequality and police brutality. That response has included threats to shoot looters, violently forcing peaceful demonstrators from Lafayette Square and fighting efforts to change the names of Army bases that honor Confederate generals.

Full coverage of the George Floyd protests

“Moments of upheaval can change you, shift the trajectory of your life, and mold your character,” she wrote in a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “The president’s comments and actions surrounding racial injustice and Black Americans cut sharply against my core values and convictions. I must follow the dictates of my conscience and resign as Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs.”

Critics and cynics — and there are no shortage of both in Washington — question why it took Ms. Taylor 3 1/2 years to realize the president she was serving is utterly devoid of character and uses race as a tool to inflame the culture war that serves his political interests. Shouldn’t his birther campaign against the country’s first black president have been a clue to what she was signing on to when she joined the administration at its start? Surely his comments in the aftermath of the deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville in 2017 — “very fine people on both sides” — should have removed any lingering doubts.

What changes do you hope will come out of protests and debates about police and race? Write to The Post.

No doubt Ms. Taylor may be a little late. That, though, doesn’t diminish the significance of her departure or the principle and guts she demonstrated in calling out the president’s actions as unacceptable. She leaves with some honor, something that not a lot of people who worked for Mr. Trump or continue to work for him can claim.

Read more:

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Michele L. Norris: The diabolical irony of Trump in Tulsa

The Post’s View: A black man now heads the Air Force. It’s progress, but military brass remains starkly white.