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White House: Biden not considering firing Austin

President Biden isn’t considering firing Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin after he failed to disclose that he was hospitalized, a White House official confirmed Monday.

The Pentagon revealed Friday that Austin had been hospitalized since last Monday following complications from a previous surgery. Biden, though, wasn’t made aware of his absence until Thursday afternoon, as the Department of Defense kept the situation internal, raising concerns about government transparency.

“There is no — no plans for anything other than for Secretary Austin to stay in the job and continuing the leadership that … he’s been demonstrating,” national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters.

When asked if Biden is considering firing him, Kirby said the president “respects the fact that Secretary Austin took ownership for the lack of transparency” and looks forward to having him back.

Biden talked to Austin “a couple of days ago,” Kirby said. Before that, Kirby said that on the morning of Jan. 1, Austin, Secretary of State Antony Blinken, national security adviser Jake Sullivan and others had a secure conference call with Biden regarding operations in the Middle East.

Kirby added that there’s “an expectation” that when a Cabinet official is hospitalized, it “will be notified up the chain of command.”

Former President Trump called for Austin to be fired Monday, saying his actions were “improper professional conduct and dereliction of duty.” Trump, the GOP primary front-runner, noted Austin was “missing” and even his “boss, Crooked Joe Biden” didn’t know where he was.

The Associated Press reported Saturday that Biden expressed confidence in Austin’s leadership despite the scandal. On Monday, Reuters first reported that Biden does not plan to remove Austin.

Austin, a 70-year-old retired Army four-star general, returned to work Friday while still in the hospital. He said in a statement Saturday evening that he recognized he “could have done a better job” making sure the public was informed about his hospitalization and said he takes “full responsibility for my decisions about disclosure.”

Kirby noted Monday that Austin has resumed all of his authorities and functions from the hospital. He added that the administration will try to learn from the situation.

“As you might expect, we’ll take a look at process and procedure here and try to learn from this experience and if there’s changes that need to be made in terms of process and procedure, we’ll do that,” Kirby said.

While Austin was hospitalized, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks was away in Puerto Rico. A U.S. official told the AP that she had a communications setup with her to allow her to do the job.

Updated at 11:03 a.m. ET

Source: The Hill

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