Former President Donald Trump urged the Biden administration to terminate Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. The Republican presidential frontrunner stated that Austin “should be fired immediately.”
Former President Donald Trump urged the Biden administration to dismiss Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for failing to alert the White House about his hospitalization during the ongoing conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine. The Republican presidential frontrunner stated that Austin “should be fired immediately for improper professional conduct and dereliction of duty.”
“He has been missing for one week, and nobody, including his boss, Crooked Joe Biden, had a clue as to where he was or might be,” Trump posted on Truth Social. “He has performed poorly and should have been dismissed along with ‘General’ Mark Milley, for many reasons, but in particular, the catastrophic surrender in Afghanistan, perhaps the most embarrassing moment in the history of our Country,” he added.
According to CNN, Austin’s deputy, Kathleen Hicks, was unaware that the secretary of defense was transported to the intensive care unit at Walter Reed Army Medical Center on New Year’s Day, prompting Trump’s harsh remarks. He also failed to notify President Biden for three days that he was in the hospital and had delegated at least some of his responsibilities to Hicks, who was on vacation in Puerto Rico.
It is not apparent whether Austin was involved in any significant decisions while he was at the hospital or the extent to which Hicks was asked to take over Austin’s responsibilities. However, a significant number of Republicans and officials from the Pentagon have requested that Austin address the issues of secrecy surrounding his absence.
“To think that at a time when we have allies at war in Eastern Europe and here in Israel, that the leader of America’s military at the Pentagon would be out of commission for a number of days, and the President of the United States didn’t know about it,” former Vice President Mike Pence said on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday. “I think it was a dereliction of duty and the secretary and the administration, frankly, need to step forward and give the American people the facts.”
Meanwhile, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, accused the Pentagon of neglecting to alert Congress, as required by law, and claimed the incident only eroded trust in the Biden administration. “When one of our country’s two National Command authorities is unable to perform their duties, military families, members of Congress and the American people deserve to know the full extent of the circumstances,” he posted on social media.
When one of the country’s two National Command Authorities is unable to perform their duties, military families, Members of Congress, and the American public deserve to know the full extent of the circumstances. https://t.co/sQOtWAq8GM
— Senator Roger Wicker (@SenatorWicker) January 8, 2024
Rep. Jim Banks (Republican-Ind.), a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told Axios that Austin “has been a disaster since Day One and should be replaced by someone who will focus on making the military ready to fight and win wars instead of advancing woke political causes of the Biden [administration.]” Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) stated that if Biden was unaware of Austin’s hospitalization, “there must be consequences for this shocking breakdown.”
Even an unidentified Pentagon official criticized Austin’s failure to let others know about his hospitalization. “There are all of these people around the secretary at all times, who manage him and help him on a day-to-day basis, and no one had the wherewithal to even tell the White House? I’m surprised no one is using the word ‘cover-up’ yet,” the official told CNN.
A senior Pentagon official also told CNN that they were given “strict orders to not contact him and let him rest” while Austin was in the hospital. He also stated that while Austin communicates with his Israeli counterpart, Yoav Gallant, on a regular basis, no calls were made last week. Austin was reportedly vigilant and tracking a military strike in Baghdad on January 4.
Austin was brought to the hospital on New Year’s Day due to complications after his elective surgery on December 22. He returned home the next day, but by January 1, he “began experiencing severe pain,” Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said on Friday. “He was placed in the hospital’s intensive care unit to ensure immediate access due to his medical needs, but then remained in that location, in part due to hospital space considerations and privacy,” Ryder said in a statement.
The next day, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of his hospitalization, but the chairman is not in the chain of command. Others were not informed until Friday, with Ryder stating that Austin’s chief of staff, Kelly Magsamen, was “unable to make notifications before then” because of her own illness.
Additionally, Ryder disclosed to CNN that Austin gave Kathleen Hicks “certain operational responsibilities that require constant secure communications capabilities” on January 2 and that Hicks made “some routine operational and management decisions” for the Pentagon. However, she didn’t find out about Austin’s hospitalization until Thursday. After that, she started preparing to fly back to Washington, DC, but she chose to remain in Puerto Rico because Austin was scheduled to resume his full duties on Friday.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has been hospitalized since Monday, due to complications following a minor elective medical procedure, Air Force Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder, the Pentagon press secretary, said Friday. https://t.co/UhY9js4uTf pic.twitter.com/vxelOvfe9b
— CBS News (@CBSNews) January 6, 2024
According to Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder’s comments on Sunday night, the defense secretary is “recovering well” and was in “good spirits” in the hospital. “Since resuming his duties on Friday evening, the secretary has received operational updates and has provided necessary guidance to his team,” Ryder said. “He has full access to required secure communications capabilities and continues to monitor DoD’s day-to-day operations worldwide.”
“The secretary spoke to President Biden yesterday. He has been in contact with Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. CQ Brown Jr. and his senior staff,” Ryder added. He also stated Austin “has no plans to resign” and said the Pentagon is “considering the impact of any statutory reporting requirements and will provide updates as appropriate.”