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Pentagon Chief Austin won’t resign, Biden won’t fire him after secretive hospital stay

U.S. President Joe Biden does not plan to fire Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin over his failure to disclose a hospitalization for days, the White House says.

'There is no plan for anything other than for Secretary Austin to stay in the job': John Kirby

A seated man in uniform speaks from behind a microphone.

U.S. President Joe Biden does not plan to fire Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin over his failure to disclose a hospitalization for days, the White House said on Monday.

"There is no plan for anything other than for Secretary Austin to stay in the job," John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesperson, told reporters.

Austin, who sits just below Biden at the top of the chain of command of the U.S. military, entered the intensive care at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center on New Year's Day, officials said on Sunday.

Details about the medical procedure or what actually happened to hospitalize Austin weren't revealed in a Sunday statement released by Air Force Maj.-Gen. Pat Ryder. But Ryder, the Pentagon's top spokesperson, said Austin was placed in the hospital's intensive care unit "due to his medical needs, but then remained in that location in part due to hospital space considerations and privacy."

Ryder has since said Austin is no longer in the ICU, but he's still in the hospital. He's recovering well, and the prognosis is good.

President Joe Biden speaks during a ceremony at the Pentagon in Washington, Sunday, Sept. 11, 2022, to honor and remember the victims of the September 11th terror attack, as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, seated left, listens.

Austin's duties require him to be available at a moment's notice to respond to any national security crisis. He said on Saturday that he took "full responsibility" for the secrecy over his hospitalization.

"I recognize I could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed. I commit to doing better," the 70-year-old said in a statement.

"But this is important to say: this was my medical procedure, and I take full responsibility for my decisions about disclosure."

Ryder said on Monday that Austin has not offered his resignation and has no plans to do so.

Republicans calls for resignation

The Pentagon's failure to disclose Austin's hospitalization has raised concerns about a lack of transparency.

Trump, who is Biden's likely Republican challenger in the 2024 election, said on Sunday night that Austin should be fired for his "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 wrote on Truth Social.

People are seen seated at a table during a meeting.

Elise Stefanik, chair of the House Republican Conference and member of the House armed services committee, which oversees the Pentagon, also called for Austin's resignation.

"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," she said in a statement.

Sen. Roger Wicker, the top-ranking Republican on the Senate armed services committee, said the episode erodes trust in the Biden administration, and he called on the department to provide lawmakers with a "full accounting of the facts immediately."

Austin has also received criticism from some Democratic politicians. In a joint statement with Republican Mike Rogers, Democratic Congressman Adam Smith said Austin must provide "additional details on his health and the decision-making process that occurred in the past week as soon as possible."

A person is seen in front of a U.S. flag.

Nevertheless, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Biden had "complete confidence" in Austin.

"I think 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," Kirby said, when asked about Austin's condition.

In his statement, Austin said he is on the mend and is looking forward to returning to the Pentagon soon, but he provided no other details about his ailment.

With files from The Associated Press

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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