The White House has responded to requests from Republican senators for Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s resignation following his hidden illness. According to a White House spokesman, President Biden has “full trust and confidence” in Austin and has no intention of replacing him.
Former President Donald Trump, in a post on Truth Social, demanded Austin’s immediate dismissal, citing “improper professional conduct and dereliction of duty.” Trump criticized Austin for his absence during critical times and for his role in the “catastrophic surrender in Afghanistan.”
Austin was admitted to the hospital on January 1 and was being treated at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Pentagon informed the media on Friday. Austin’s medical condition is still unknown; officials have only disclosed that he had an elective surgery last month and was admitted to the hospital shortly after.
President Biden, the National Security Council, and top Pentagon officers, including Austin’s deputy Kathleen Hicks, were apparently uninformed for days that Austin had been transported to the hospital’s intensive care unit for treatment.
Republicans, notably Rep. Jim Banks and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, have criticized Austin’s handling of the problem. Greene wrote on X that Austin “isn’t capable of leading the Department of Defense,” and Banks referred to Austin as a “disaster.”
Senator Tom Cotton declared that this “shocking breakdown” in responsibilities and communication has to have repercussions. Additionally, Republican senators Rick Scott and Roger Wicker sought explanations for the silence surrounding Austin’s hospitalization.
According to Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, Austin alerted the chairman of the Joint Chiefs about his illness the day he was admitted, and additional members were notified later in the week. Ryder went on to say that Austin is committed to his work and has no plans to step down.
Austin is currently recuperating from the treatment and unidentified illness and has resumed his duties. Republicans have previously called for Austin’s resignation, most notably in 2021 when the United States was withdrawing from Afghanistan.