Merrick Garland Transfers Power Ahead of Back Surgery

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AP Photo/Stephanie Scarbrough

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s failure to inform the White House that he would be out of commission in December due to having prostate cancer surgery, along with the subsequent complications from the procedure, was a major embarrassment for the Biden administration. Not only did White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby gaslight to cover for Biden and Austin, but they had to scramble to prove that national security had not suffered because the head of the nation’s armed forces and defense apparatus was derelict in his duty. Austin returned to the Pentagon and his duties on Monday. This time, the Pentagon issued a brief, after-the-fact statement.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was back in the office Monday, exactly four weeks after he was rushed to the hospital with complications from prostate cancer surgery that he kept from his colleagues – and President Biden – for days.
The Defense Department released a short statement announcing Austin’s return, noting the 70-year-old had been working from home since his release from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Jan. 15.

In light of this crater-sized breach of protocol and common sense, last week, the Biden administration established new reporting procedures for executive-level positions. Departments now have to notify both the White House Office of Cabinet Affairs and White House Chief of Staff Jeff Zients when any delegation of authority is being considered and when it actually happens. The authorization also requires that written records be kept of when this shift of authority takes place and when it is rescinded.

Attorney General Merrick Garland is the first to test this new policy, announcing that he is scheduled for back surgery this weekend. 

Attorney General Merrick Garland will be out of commission this weekend due to back surgery and is going out of his way to make sure that there are no doubts about who will be in charge during his absence.  
The unusual, early announcement by the Biden administration’s top law enforcement officer is intended to avoid the storm of criticism Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin faced recently after failing to tell colleagues and the White House when he was hospitalized for prostate cancer surgery and was readmitted for complications.
Justice Department spokesperson Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement Monday that Garland is scheduled to have a “minimally invasive back procedure” Saturday to treat spinal stenosis — a narrowing of spaces in vertebrae.

The song and dance over HIPAA protections used to excuse Austin’s non-disclosure apparently has been discarded. In the statement, Garland went into great detail to explain the affected vertebrae and the planned operation to correct the issue, as well as how long he would be out of pocket and when he would return to the office. The only thing not disclosed is where the surgery would be taking place and the amount of time Garland had been suffering from this condition. While Garland is under anesthesia and recovering, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco will be taking up the reins. There is no mention that Monaco has any concurrent vacation plans.

We wish Garland a successful procedure. It is heartening that he is attempting to be accountable to the chain of command. However, unlike the crisis that was caused when the head of the nation’s defenses went AWOL, very few will blink an eyelash over the head of the Department of Justice being incapacitated.

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