The White House said President Biden has “full trust” in Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin as calls mount for the defense leader to resign or be fired in light of his quiet hospitalization in an intensive care unit that even the White House was unaware of for days.
A White House official told Fox News Digital on Monday morning that President Biden has no plans to replace Austin and “continues to have full trust and confidence in the Secretary.”
The White House’s comment follows former President Trump, saying Sunday 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 added in his Truth Social post.
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“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,” Trump continued.
The media was alerted on Friday by the Pentagon that Austin was hospitalized the evening of Jan. 1, and remains under the care of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center. Details surrounding Austin’s medical condition remain unclear, with officials only detailing that he underwent an elective medical procedure last month, and was hospitalized in the days following.
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President Biden, the National Security Council and top Pentagon leaders – including Austin’s deputy, Kathleen Hicks – were kept in the dark for days that Austin had been taken to the hospital’s intensive care unit for treatment on New Year’s.
Republicans are now increasingly calling for Austin’s resignation and demanding answers as to how Biden was kept out of the loop regarding the hospitalization.
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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 admin. Enough is enough,” Rep. Jim Banks said over the weekend to Axios.
“He isn’t capable of leading the Department of Defense. And he just proved it again by keeping it a secret when he was very sick and in the ICU,” Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene posted on X.
Republican Arkansas Sen. Tom Cotton said “there must be consequences for this shocking breakdown” in duties and communication.
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“The secretary of defense is the key link in the chain of command between the president and the uniformed military, including the nuclear chain of command, when the weightiest of decisions must be made in minutes,” Cotton said in a statement. “If this report is true, there must be consequences for this shocking breakdown.”
Senate Armed Services Committee members have also pushed back and demanded answers about the lack of communication on the hospitalization, including GOP Sens. Rick Scott of Florida and Roger Wicker of Mississippi.
“Unacceptable & dangerous. @SecDef is a key member of the U.S. national security team & has a critical role in our most sensitive military & nuclear protocols,” Scott said in a comment provided to Fox News Digital. “Sec. Austin must come to SASC immediately, explain why this happened & who helped keep it from our nation’s leaders.”
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Wicker said in a statement provided to Fox News Digital that the matter “further erodes trust in the Biden Administration, which has repeatedly failed to inform the public in a timely fashion about critical events.”
“Worryingly, we now have more questions than answers. Why was the notification process under 5 U.S.C. 3349 not followed and who made the determination not to follow it? What role did the Secretary of Defense’s staff play? When exactly was the President notified? What justification did the Department have for withholding information from the National Security Council? To what extent was the Secretary incapacitated by his surgery? The very fact that we have none of this information is an indictment of an administration which consistently holds Congressional authority on national defense matters in contempt,” Wicker said.
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Fox News Digital reached out to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Mike Johnson for comment on the matter and on the calls for Austin to resign.
Maj. General Pat Ryder said that Austin had informed the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of the hospitalization the day after he was admitted, with others notified later that week.
Ryder added in a previous comment to Fox News Digital reported Monday that Austin does not plan to resign in light of the controversy.
“Secretary Austin has no plans to resign,” Ryder said. “He remains focused on conducting his duties as Secretary of Defense in defense of our nation.”
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Though still hospitalized, Austin has resumed his duties and is now recovering from the treatment and undisclosed illness.
This is not the first time Republicans have called for Austin’s resignation. Lawmakers and retired military personnel called on him to step down in 2021, when the U.S. pulled out of Afghanistan.