Internet InfoMedia lloyd austin to face grilling from lawmakers over secret hospital visits

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Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin will face a grilling from lawmakers in his first appearance before Congress since his secretive hospital visits in January.

Austin will appear before the GOP-controlled House Armed Services Committee. Several lawmakers on the committee have blasted the secretary both for not informing Congress of his days-long hospital visit, but also for keeping President Biden in the dark.

Lawmakers are concerned the secretive move could have caused a breakdown in the chain of command stretching from the White House to the Pentagon. While Austin insists he transferred authority to a secretary during his hospital visit, concerns remain given he informed none of his superiors of the move.

Austin’s frequent hospital visits come thanks to a prostate cancer diagnosis, which he received in December. The offending hospital visit came on January 1, when he was taken to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center via ambulance. He was soon transferred to intensive care.

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Lloyd Austin returns to Pentagon

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin listens during a meeting with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg at the Pentagon in Washington, Monday, Jan. 29, 2024.  (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

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The Pentagon came under a barrage of criticism Monday following the release of an internal review of its handling of Austin’s hospitalization.

The review, carried out by Austin’s subordinates, largely absolves anyone of wrongdoing for the secrecy surrounding the incident. The review states flatly that there was “no indication of ill intent or an attempt to obfuscate.”

Pentagon

The Pentagon came under a barrage of criticism Monday following the release of an internal review of its handling of Austin’s hospitalization. (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak, File)

Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder told reporters that Secretary Austin’s staff decided to transfer authority to Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks on January 2 as he was in the ICU. He said the secretary was never unconscious, though it remained unclear why his staff made that call. 

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Hicks, meanwhile, was on vacation in Puerto Rico and did not learn of Austin’s hospitalization until three days later, after he was transported to the ICU.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin

Austin’s remarks to Congress are likely to mirror his public apology that he gave in early February. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

Austin’s remarks before the House Committee are likely to mirror the public apology he gave over the incident in early February. He said he personally apologized to Biden as well.

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“I want to be crystal clear. We did not handle this right and I did not handle this right,” Austin said at the time. “I should have told the president about my cancer diagnosis. I should have also told my team and the American public, and I take full responsibility. I apologize to my teammates and to the American people.”

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