According to the White House, President Joe Biden is not currently considering ordering Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to resign after it was revealed that Mr. Austin had been hospitalized for several days without informing the president.

While speaking with the White House press pool en route to Charleston, South Carolina, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby faced questions about Mr. Austin’s hospitalization, his health status, and his continued role in U.S. national security after it was revealed late last week that he has been hospitalized since Jan. 1, following complications from an elective surgery.

“Our main focus right now is on Secretary Austin’s health and making sure that he gets all the care and support that he needs to fully recover. That’s the focus,” Mr. Kirby said. “And he has already resumed all his authorities. He’s already doing all of the functions he would normally do. He’s doing it right now from the hospital.”

While Mr. Kirby gave assurances that Mr. Austin is still able to perform his duties, his hospitalization comes amid a period of heightened security risks for U.S. troops in the Middle East.

Amid Mr. Austin’s period of undisclosed hospitalization, U.S. forces have had to contend with new Houthi attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea, including the detonation of an explosive-laden unmanned surface vessel. On the day Mr. Austin was hospitalized, Iran also deployed a warship in the Red Sea, raising the risk of a confrontation between U.S. forces operating in the waterway.

On Thursday, still hours before Mr. Austin came forward about his hospitalization, the United States carried out a drone strike on an alleged Iran-linked terrorist target in Iraq that the U.S. Department of Defense said was actively involved in planning and carrying out attacks against American personnel. The U.S. strike in Iraq elicited pushback from officials within the Iraqi government, who argued that the strike undermined Iraqi sovereignty and the military cooperation agreement it has with U.S. forces operating in the country.

House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) called Mr. Austin’s resignation on Monday morning.

“At this dangerous time when American service members are under attack in Iraq and Syria, our closest partner and ally Israel is at war with Hamas terrorists, and the threat from Communist China is on the rise, it is critical that the Secretary of Defense has the full trust of the American people, Congress, and the White House,” Ms. Stefanik said. “This concerning lack of transparency exemplifies a shocking lack of judgment and a significant national security threat. There must be full accountability beginning with the immediate resignation of Secretary Austin and those that lied for him and a Congressional investigation into this dangerous dereliction of duty.”

When asked about calls for Mr. Austin’s resignation, Mr. Kirby told the White House press pool that such considerations are not on the table.

Mr. Kirby said President Biden “respects the fact that Secretary Austin took ownership for the lack of transparency” and respects “the amazing job he’s done as Defense Secretary and how he’s handled multiple crises over the last almost three years now.”

“There [are] no plans or anything, other than for Secretary Austin to stay in the job and continue in the leadership … that he’s been demonstrating,” Mr. Kirby added.

The National Security Council spokesman said the White House Situation Room checks in every morning to get the general location of all the non-White House principals, the Cabinet-level officers, but this location reporting is “generic,” and the Situation Room didn’t have a more specific understanding of where Mr. Austin was until the afternoon of Thursday, Jan. 4.

“We’ll take a look at process and procedure here and try to learn from this experience. And if there’s some changes that need to be made, you know, in terms of process and procedure, we’ll do that,” Mr. Kirby told reporters.

Calls For Austin’s Ouster Grow

Former president and Republican 2024 presidential frontrunner Donald Trump has added his voice to calls for Mr. Austin’s ouster.

“Failed Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin should be fired immediately for improper professional conduct and dereliction of duty,” President Trump wrote in a post on his Truth social media account on Sunday. “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.”

President Trump said Mr. Austin should have been dismissed even before this latest incident, including for his handling of the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2021.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) also joined in condemning Mr. Austin’s decision not to disclose his hospitalization for several days.

“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,” Ms. Greene said in a Sunday post on the X social media platform, formerly known as Twitter.

Some Democrats in Congress have also called for Mr. Austin to account for his failure to disclose his hospitalization sooner. Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the ranking member on the House Armed Forces Committee, issued a joint statement with Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) calling for Mr. Austin to answer questions surrounding his hospitalization, including the timeline for his disclosure and his reasons for the initial delay.

Mr. Austin acknowledged the concerns raised over his hospitalization and disclosure in a Jan. 6 press statement, and said he would commit to doing better in the future.

“I am very glad to be on the mend and look forward to returning to the Pentagon soon. I also understand the media concerns about transparency and I recognize I could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed. I commit to doing better,” the defense secretary wrote. “But this is important to say: this was my medical procedure, and I take full responsibility for my decisions about disclosure.”

In an emailed statement, a Pentagon spokesperson said Mr. Austin has no plans at this time to retire.

From NTD News

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