A timeline of Austin’s hospital fiasco: From cancer diagnosis to now

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This week’s revelations that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin was hospitalized due to complications from an earlier surgery to treat prostate cancer has spurred intense scrutiny of the former top general.

Austin apparently waited about a month to inform President Biden of his diagnosis, only telling him after the public scandal over his secrecy was well underway. It also took days for Biden to find out that his Defense chief had checked into the intensive care unit earlier this month.

So far, the White House says Austin maintains the full confidence of the president. However, Republicans in Congress are ramping up pressure on the administration to explain why Congress, other officials and the public were kept in the dark for so long. And the first House Democrat on Wednesday called for the Defense chief to step down.

Here’s a timeline of what we know so far.

Early December

Austin is diagnosed with prostate cancer during a routine recommended health screening. President Biden is not informed and will not be for another month, nor will the public.

Friday, Dec. 22

Austin undergoes a “minimally invasive” prostatectomy at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He is under general anesthesia during the procedure. The Pentagon doesn’t inform the White House or Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, but certain operational authorities are transferred to her. The White House is not informed of the transfer of powers.

Saturday, Dec. 23

Austin returns home the morning after the surgery with an “excellent” prognosis. He intends to work from home throughout the holidays.

Dec. 30-31

Secretary of State Antony Blinken speaks with Austin. Blinken later says medical issues did not come up.

Monday, Jan. 1

Austin joins a White House conference call with Biden, Blinken, and national security adviser Jake Sullivan to discuss “operations in the Middle East.”

In the evening, Austin experiences “nausea with severe abdominal, hip, and leg pain” due to complications from the earlier surgery. He is taken by ambulance to Walter Reed, accompanied only by a few people including members of his personal security team. Initial evaluation by doctors reveals a urinary tract infection.

Tuesday, Jan. 2

Austin is admitted to the intensive care unit “for close monitoring and a higher level of care.” Further evaluations reveal abdominal fluid collecting in his digestive tract, impairing the function of his small intestines. A tube is placed through his nose to drain his stomach.

In the afternoon, Austin once again transfers some of his duties to Hicks “due to the secretary’s condition and on the basis of medical advice.” The White House is again not informed.

Hicks, vacationing in Puerto Rico, is informed of the transfer of duties but is not told Austin is in the hospital.

Austin’s and Hick’s staff, as well as the Joint Chiefs of Staff — including Chair Gen. CQ Brown — are notified the transfer has occurred via email. Brown learns Austin is in the hospital.

Austin’s chief of staff Kelly Magsamen learns of his hospitalization. She does not inform others in the Pentagon because she is sick with the flu, according to the Pentagon.

Chris Meagher, the assistant to the Defense secretary for public affairs, tells Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder that Austin is in the hospital but gives little information. Ryder is told to stand by for updates.

Thursday, Jan. 4

The military launches a retaliatory strike in Baghdad, killing Mushtaq Jawad Kazim al Jawari, a militia leader the U.S. blames for numerous recent attacks against American troops in the region. Ryder later says Austin authorized the operation in December, before his hospitalization.

In the afternoon, Magsamen, still sick with the flu, informs Hicks and Sullivan that Austin is in the hospital and had been for a few days. Sullivan and White House chief of staff Jeff Zients brief President Biden directly after.

Sullivan and Zients reportedly call Magsamen, urging the Pentagon to put out a public statement about Austin’s situation as soon as possible.

Magsamen and Hicks begin drafting a public statement and engage staff on congressional outreach. Hicks plans to return to Washington but remains in Puerto Rico when told Austin will resume his full duties the following day.

Friday, Jan. 5

In the afternoon, Magsamen notifies the secretaries of the military departments, the undersecretaries and principal staff assistants of Austin’s hospitalization.

Shortly before 5 p.m., the Department of Defense notifies Congress of Austin’s hospitalization.

At 5:03 p.m., the Pentagon releases a public statement revealing Austin had been admitted to Walter Reed the evening of Jan. 1 “for complications following a recent elective medical procedure,” which it does not disclose. The release notes that he is “recovering well and is expecting to resume his full duties today.”

The Pentagon Press Association sends out a letter of protest over the lack of transparency, calling the delay in alerting the public “an outrage.”

By Friday evening, Austin had resumed his full duties from Walter Reed.

Saturday, Jan. 6

Facing widespread anger over his secrecy, Austin releases a statement at 5:50 p.m. acknowledging that he “could have done a better job ensuring the public was appropriately informed.” He commits to doing better, but asserts it was his medical procedure and he takes “full responsibility for my decisions about disclosure.”

Austin speaks with Biden in the evening, an exchange described by the White House as a “cordial” conversation in which Biden said he looked forward to having the Pentagon chief back at work. Austin does not tell the president about his cancer diagnosis.

At 7:25 p.m., Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) releases a statement calling for lawmakers to be briefed “immediately” by the Pentagon on the timeline of events. That briefing has not happened as of Wednesday.

Sunday, Jan. 7

Austin speaks with Senate Armed Services Chair Jack Reed (D-R.I.), the lone lawmaker he has contacted since the start of his hospitalization.

3:48 p.m. – House Armed Services Committee Chair Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) and ranking member Adam Smith (D-Wash.) put out a joint statement demanding Austin quickly provide Congress “additional details on his health and the decision-making process that occurred in the past week,” including “how and when the delegation of the Secretary’s responsibilities were made, and the reason for the delay in notification to the President and Congress.”

4:24 p.m. – Ryder says in a statement Austin remains hospitalized but “has received operational updates and has provided necessary guidance to his team.” He has also been in contact with Hicks, Brown and his senior staff.

7:15 p.m. – Former President Trump in a Truth Social post calls for Austin to be “fired immediately for improper professional conduct and dereliction of duty.”

Monday, Jan. 8

The White House says Biden isn’t considering firing Austin, but that he will look at whether processes and procedures were properly followed to see if changes need to be made.

Zients asks Cabinet secretaries in a memo to review how they delegate authority and reminds agencies to notify the White House in “event of a delegation of authority or potential delegation.”

At 10:07 a.m., House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (N.Y.) calls for Austin to be fired in a statement.

Ryder holds an off-camera briefing with media in the afternoon to provide more details about the timeline of events, revealing that he found out about Austin’s hospitalization on Jan. 2. He apologizes, takes personal responsibility for the breakdown in communications and pledges to keep the Pentagon press corps better informed.

Ryder also announces an internal Defense Department review for how it can improve its processes for White House and congressional notifications.

Ryder says neither Austin nor any of his staff plan to resign.

7:38 p.m. – Rogers says on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, that he is “quickly losing faith in Sec Austin’s ability to lead [the Pentagon] in this turbulent time.”

8:43 p.m. – Pentagon releases a memorandum outlining a 30-day review of the Defense Department’s notification policies.

Tuesday, Jan. 9

Austin informs the White House of his cancer diagnosis in the morning. Biden is told by chief of staff Zients, according to Kirby.

2:15 p.m. – Pentagon releases a statement from Austin’s doctors at Walter Reed, who disclose his prostate cancer diagnosis from early December, the Dec. 22 surgery and a brief timeline of his ongoing hospital stay that began Jan. 1.

The White House holds its daily briefing, during which Kirby says “nobody at the White House knew that Secretary Austin had prostate cancer until this morning.”

4:23 p.m. – In a statement, Wicker calls for accountability and denounces the Pentagon’s internal review as “woefully inadequate” given that it was “ordered by the same Chief of Staff who played a part in this crisis.”

5 p.m. – Rogers, the House Armed Services chair, announces he has launched a formal inquiry into Austin’s failure to disclose his hospitalization, sending letters to the Pentagon chief, Hicks and Magsamen “seeking information and full transparency on the events that transpired.”

7:29 p.m. – Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) officially submits articles of impeachment against Austin, announcing the move in a video posted to X.

Wednesday, Jan. 10

12:30 p.m. – Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee send a letter to Austin, demanding a detailed timeline of events related to his “incapacitation” and hospitalization.

3:18 p.m. – The Pentagon says Austin remains hospitalized at Walter Reed.

3:42 p.m. – Rep. Chris Deluzio (D-Pa.), currently in a competitive race for reelection, becomes the first congressional Democrat to call for Austin’s ouster, relaying on X that he has lost trust in the Pentagon’s leadership “due to the lack of transparency.”

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