Critics of the Biden administration have taken issue with the actions of numerous top White House officials, including multiple efforts to impeach Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his perceived mismanagement of the border crisis.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, on the other hand, has come under fire recently not for his conduct in office but for attempting to hide the fact that he was away from his post for several days while receiving intensive care from hospital staff.
Considering the mounting global threats the U.S. currently faces on multiple fronts, the fact that such a high-ranking adviser was apparently incapacitated for a prolonged period of time has sparked fierce backlash.
Former President Donald Trump weighed in with a social media statement urging his successor to replace Austin at the helm of the Defense Department.
“Failed Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin should be fired immediately for improper professional conduct and dereliction of duty,” the 2024 GOP presidential primary front-runner wrote. “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.”
Asserting that Austin’s record prior to the secretive hospitalization already warranted his dismissal, Trump cited “the catastrophic surrender in Afghanistan” as a specific example, calling it “perhaps the most embarrassing moment in the history of our Country!”
Although the White House acknowledged that it was not informed of Austin’s hospitalization until Thursday, which was three days after he was admitted, a spokesperson confirmed that he and Biden had a “warm conversation” on Saturday and the president maintains “full confidence” in the cabinet secretary.
For his part, Austin, who remained in the hospital as of the latest updates available, issued a statement acknowledging that he “could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed” about his situation.
“I commit to doing better,” he added. “But this is important to say: this was my medical procedure, and I take full responsibility for my decisions about disclosure.”
Senate Armed Services Committee ranking Republican Roger Wicker of Mississippi was among several other prominent officials who expressed serious concerns about the revelations.
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
“I am glad to hear Secretary Austin is in improved condition and I wish him a speedy recovery,” the senator wrote. “However, the fact remains that the Department of Defense deliberately withheld the Secretary of Defense’s condition for days. That is unacceptable.”