Calls are growing for Democrat President Joe Biden’s Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to resign after it emerged that his hospitalization was kept hidden.
Controversy erupted over the weekend after it was revealed on Friday evening that Austin had been hospitalized for several days.
However, no notifications about Austin’s situation had been made to the White House, Congress, or even most other senior Pentagon officials.
There are now growing demands for Austin and others to resign over the lack of transparency.
Among those calls is a former top official in the Obama administration, who said the disclosure failures constituted “serious breaches of trust,” Breitbart reported.
However, the White House had made it clear in the aftermath that, at least as of now, Biden retains confidence in the Defense secretary.
Biden asserted that he has no plans to demand Austin’s resignation or fire and replace him.
On Friday evening, Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder announced that Sec. Austin had been hospitalized on Monday, Jan. 1, at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center for “complications following a recent elective medical procedure.”
Ryder’s statement noted that Austin was “recovering well” and expected to “resume his full duties” that day.
There was immediate blowback from the media and members of Congress at the belated notification.
The backlash prompted Austin himself to issue a statement Saturday that said in part:
“I also understand the media concerns about transparency and I recognize I could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed.
“I commit to doing better.
“But this is important to say: this was my medical procedure, and I take full responsibility for my decisions about disclosure.”
On Monday, Gen. Ryder issued an update on the situation and revealed that Austin was no longer in an intensive care unit but was still hospitalized, that he had been in contact with various relevant senior Pentagon and White House officials, but also that it remained unknown when the secretary would be released from the hospital and return to work in a normal capacity.
Also on Monday, according to Breitbart, former President Barack Obama’s Director of Global Engagement, Brett Bruen, appeared on CNN’s “Out Front” with host Erin Burnett.
Bruen was asked if he believed that, “With everything that you know and that we now understand to be the case, that Secretary Austin should resign?”
“I think both he should resign, but I think there have to be several resignations here, including his chief of staff, as well as other officials,” Bruen replied.
“You mentioned the Pentagon spokesperson — he briefed reporters on Thursday, knowing then that Secretary Austin was in the hospital, did not disclose that information.”
“These are not minor mistakes, Erin,” he continued.
“These are serious breaches of trust, they’re serious breaches of transparency, and they do ultimately affect our readiness as a nation to respond.”
“I think we’re facing, Erin, a credibility crisis, and as you point out, we still don’t know why he went into the hospital, why he’s still in the hospital,” Bruen said.
“We also, quite frankly, have not gotten the full truth about how things went down.
“I think the withholding of information still by the White House, the Pentagon — this has been coming out in dribs and drabs — requires us, at this point, to have a full airing of the facts.”
“I think there has to be a public investigation,” he added.
“And then we need new criteria, we need to understand going forward in the future, when do defense secretaries need to call their boss, need to call the White House and say, ‘sir, ma’am, I’m going to be out of the office for the next few hours and the next few days?'”
According to the Associated Press, only a small handful of top Pentagon officials close to Sec. Austin was made aware of his hospitalization on Jan. 2, with the White House not being informed until Jan. 4 and members of Congress only learning of the situation mere moments before the public on Jan. 5.
The Pentagon announced in a memo on Monday that a full review of the notification process had been ordered, with a focus on the “clarity and transparency” and timeliness of such notifications of the White House, Congress, and the public through the media in any future incidents.
As for the White House, both press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and National Security Council spokesman John Kirby made it clear in a Monday press gaggle that President Biden had no plans to call for Austin’s resignation.
They stated that Biden still had confidence in the secretary’s ability to do the job to which he was appointed.