GOP congressman demands Defense Sec. Austin answer questions and testify to Congress about lack of transparency over secret hospitalization

 January 19, 2024

Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin has faced bipartisan demands that he resign or be fired after it was revealed that he was secretly hospitalized for several days without Congress or even the White House and President Joe Biden being promptly notified.

Now a top House Republican has called on Austin to answer a series of pertinent questions about his lack of transparency about the situation, both in writing and in testimony before a relevant committee, according to the Washington Examiner.

Should Austin refuse to cooperate and fail to answer the questions or testify, it seems highly likely that the calls for his removal from his powerful position in charge of the U.S. military will significantly intensify, including demands that he be forced to resign, outright fired, or impeached and ousted from office.

Austin called upon to testify before Congress about lack of transparency

On Thursday, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) sent a letter to Sec. Austin, and said, "When you and I last spoke, you promised full transparency into questions regarding the secrecy of your recent hospitalization. While you did respond to some of my questions I had for you, a concerning number of questions were not addressed."

"Specifically, I am alarmed you refused to answer whether you instructed your staff to not inform the President of the United States or anyone else of your hospitalization. Unfortunately, this leads me to believe that information is being withheld from Congress," he continued. "Congress must understand what happened and who made decisions to prevent the disclosure of the whereabouts of a cabinet secretary."

"Your unwillingness to provide candid and complete answers necessitates calling a Full Committee hearing on February 14, 2024, where the Committee expects to hear your direct testimony regarding decisions made to withhold information from the President, Congress, and the American people," Rogers wrote.

"In the meantime, it is my expectation that you promptly answer all outstanding questions so the Committee can review the necessary information in preparation for the upcoming hearing," he added. "I expect your full honesty and cooperation in this matter. Anything short of that is completely unacceptable."

Dozens of questions that need to be answered

The letter from Chairman Rogers to Sec. Austin went on to list off two dozen unanswered questions -- primarily of the who knew or did what and when and why variety -- that needed to be addressed concerning Austin, Deputy Sec. Kathleen Hicks, and the secretary's Chief of Staff Kelly Magsamen, among a small handful of other officials close to the secretary.

"This is a time of immense global instability," Rogers concluded. "Our country deserves reliable leadership at the Department. Maintaining the most ready and lethal force possible requires that everyone in the national security community be able to rely upon the Secretary of Defense’s availability and transparency."

"Regrettably, you have not exhibited these attributes throughout this most recent string of events," the congressman added.

Even Biden was kept in the dark about Austin's absence, cancer diagnosis, and surgery

The Hill reported that Sec. Austin was finally released from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Monday after being hospitalized since Jan. 1 for a urinary tract infection that arose as a complication of a late-December surgery to treat prostate cancer -- none of which had been properly and promptly disclosed to the American public, Congress, or even President Biden and the White House.

While it is not shocking that numerous Republicans have called for Austin to be fired or forced to resign, somewhat surprisingly even some Democrats have echoed those calls for the secretary to be removed from his position.

President Biden, however, despite initially being kept unaware of Austin's absence and incapacity for several days -- not to mention entirely uninformed of Austin's cancer diagnosis and surgery until just recently -- has indicated that he retains confidence in Austin's ability to do the job to which he was appointed and has no plans to fire him or demand his resignation.

As previously noted, though, if Austin declines to cooperate with the justified and legitimate questions from Congress about the lack of transparency throughout this episode, that decision by Biden to keep Austin in place may become moot if Congress decides to impeach and remove the secretary themselves.

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