White House officials confirmed Tuesday that defense secretary Lloyd Austin kept his prostate cancer diagnosis to himself for a month before informing the White House, adding further scrutiny to Austin’s recent failure to inform Biden or the National Security Council that he was in the ICU for several days.
Austin, who oversees a department tasked with deterring conflict, received his diagnosis in December, according to a statement from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center officials. The statement indicates that although the secretary underwent a “minimally invasive procedure” on December 22, complications led to his hospitalization on New Year’s Day:
“On January 2, the decision was made to transfer him to the ICU for close monitoring and a higher level of care.”
The lack of communication among top government officials has sparked outrage from some Republicans in Congress, including House Armed Services Committee chairman Mike Rogers, who launched a formal investigation into the matter. Rogers said a “detailed account” of how Austin communicated his absence to officials in the Pentagon and the White House is needed.
John Kirby, the NSC spokesman, responded to calls for Austin to be fired on Monday, stating that “there is no plan for anything other than for Secretary Austin to stay in the job and continue the leadership that has been exhibited” and that President Joe Biden retains “full confidence” in his appointee. One senior Biden official even told Politico that the president would go as far as not to accept a resignation if Austin were to offer one. Kirby, however, acknowledged that the incident was “not good” and promised that the administration is conducting a review of notification procedures.
Yesterday, as reporters grilled the White House on Austin’s disappearance, the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels launched their largest-ever Red Sea drone attack, perhaps capitalizing on the confusion and divisiveness facing the Biden administration. While Austin was incapacitated, he delegated responsibility to the deputy secretary of defense, who was on vacation in Puerto Rico.
-Juan P. Villasmil
On our radar
REST IN PEACE Former first lady Melania Trump announced Tuesday that her mother had passed away after a long illness. Former president Donald Trump requested a delay in closing arguments in his New York civil fraud trial to grieve with his wife, but was denied.
WHEN X GIVES YOU LEMON Former CNN anchor Don Lemon said he is back “bigger, bolder, freer” and is launching a new independent show to air first on X. Lemon was fired from CNN last spring after losing his primetime slot and clashing with his colleagues on the network’s morning show.
DISLIKE MIKE Conservatives in the House GOP conference are not happy about a new spending bill agreed upon between Speaker Mike Johnson and Democrats, which is broadly in line with one previously negotiated by former GOP speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Hunter crashes the party
Experimental artist Hunter Biden stunned Washington today with his latest performance piece, as he appeared in Congress to face down his Republican adversaries. The House Oversight Committee was set to vote on holding the first son in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify to them behind closed doors. Hunter has said he would agree to a public hearing over his business dealings and possible financial ties between his associates and his father.
The Secret Service had swept the room ahead of the hearing, which should have tipped off House Republicans — yet they appeared caught off guard.
Nonetheless, some GOP members were eager to take pot shots. “Who bribed Hunter Biden to be here today? That’s my first question,” Representative Nancy Mace said after his arrival, before saying that he has “no balls to come up here.” (The contents of his laptop beg to differ.) Hunter left the room after Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene began speaking — finally, a blonde he doesn’t want to spend time with…
Ron and Nikki’s Hawkeye showdown
Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley are set to butt heads at 9 p.m. ET tonight at Drake University in Des Moines, Iowa, in a CNN primary debate moderated by Jake Tapper and Dana Bash.
To qualify, candidates had to get at least 10 percent in three separate national and/or Iowa polls of Republican caucusgoers or primary voters, with one of the three polls being “an approved CNN poll of likely Iowa Republican caucusgoers.” Only DeSantis and Haley made the cut, with Vivek Ramaswamy, Chris Christie and Asa Hutchinson (yes, he’s still running) missing out.
The debate was hastily arranged by the network after the Republican National Committee announced that it was pausing its participation in primary debates a month ago, opening up a free-for-all for media organizations who had yet to host one. The first four debates aired on Fox News, Fox Business, NBC News and NewsNation, respectively. The RNC had reportedly been requiring prospective hosts to pay a fee of $2 million for the pleasure.
DeSantis and Haley are both seeking a breakout moment to demonstrate their credentials as an alternative to front-runner Donald Trump, who leads them by over thirty points in all Iowa polls. The Iowa Caucus is six days away, and will be followed by two more Republican debates in New Hampshire — on ABC and CNN — before the Granite State votes on Tuesday, January 23.
Mayorkas under the gun
Republicans held their first hearing in its impeachment proceedings against Department of Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. Three Republican attorneys general testified about the impact the unchecked border crisis has had on their states. Mayorkas did not appear at the hearing.
Democrats say you cannot impeach a cabinet official over a policy disagreement. The GOP argues that Mayorkas’s failure to enforce federal immigration law — as well as his alleged perjury, as he has testified that the border is not open and that all national security threats are immediately removed from the country — is, indeed, an impeachable offense.
The House Committee on Homeland Security chairman Mark Green said Mayorkas’s dereliction of duty and “gross incompetence” should justify his impeachment.