In a letter of resignation to Trump Thursday, from which CNN received a copy, DeVos called the rebels’ behavior “unscrupulous” and wrote, “There is no wrong effect of your rhetoric on the situation and this is the turning point for me.”
“Impressive children watch all this and learn from us,” she added.
“I believe that each of us has a moral obligation to exercise good judgment and model the behavior we hope to emulate. They need to know from us that America is bigger than what happened yesterday.”
“There was a lot of searching and discussion of the soul today,” said a senior official. “Obviously it was the right thing to do.”
The wave of sudden exits came after Trump supporters – prompted by the president – broke through the Capitol on Wednesday and engulfed the country’s capital in chaos.
After hundreds of Trump protesters pushed barriers around the perimeter of the Capitol, protesters finally made their way into the building and the floor of the House was evacuated by police.
It was only after requests from aides and allies in Congress in the besieged Capitol that Trump released a video calling for the unrest to “go home,” while continuing to fan his baseless complaints about stolen elections.
A peaceful transfer of power, she said, “is what separates American representative democracy from the banana republics.”
The Republican’s best donor and school selection activist, DeVos was elected head of the Ministry of Education in 2016. The president hailed her in a statement at the time as a “brilliant and passionate defender of education.”
“Under her leadership, we will reform the US education system and break the bureaucracy that holds our children back so that we can provide world-class education and choice of school to all families,” Trump said.
It has recently faced significant internal controls over the rare presence of coronavirus meetings, despite a heavy focus on whether schools should remain open in the spring or open as planned in the autumn.
But even in her resignation letter, DeVos highlighted what she called the education ministry’s advocacy for “forgotten students” as she complained that Wednesday’s violence took away “much of the Trump administration’s” accomplishments.
“It has been an honor to hold this position for a lifetime,” Devos said at the end of his message, “and I will be eternally grateful for the opportunity to serve America and its students.”
This story was updated with additional information on Thursday.
CNN’s Michael Warren, Kevin Liptak, Meredith Edwards and Jeremy Diamond contributed to the report.