Attorney General Merrick Garland to undergo surgery, Justice Department says

Attorney General Merrick B. Garland speaks during a news conference where he and Associate Attorney General Vanita Gupta shared the findings of a federal report into the law enforcement response to a school shooting at Robb Elementary, Thursday, Jan. 18, 2024, in Uvalde, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Eric Gay, Copyright 2024 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

WASHINGTON – Attorney General Merrick Garland will undergo back surgery this weekend and delegate his duties to the deputy attorney general during the procedure, the Justice Department said Monday.

The news comes as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin returns to work at the Pentagon following a hospitalization related to prostate cancer that was criticized for being kept secret for days.

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Garland, 71, will be under general anesthesia during the back procedure on Saturday, which will last about 90 minutes and is “minimally invasive,” said Xochitl Hinojosa, director of public affairs at the Justice Department. He is expected to return home the same day, she said. Garland will delegate his duties to Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco shortly before, during and for a short time after the procedure as he recovers from the anesthesia, the statement said. He is expected to return to work the week of Feb. 5.

Austin returned to the Pentagon Monday after nearly a month-long absence. He underwent a surgical procedure for the cancer on Dec. 22 and was released, but was then admitted to intensive care days later after experiencing extreme pain. He stayed there for two weeks but didn’t inform the White House or his deputy that he had cancer, had surgery or returned to the hospital until days later.

Austin’s lack of disclosure prompted two ongoing reviews as well as changes in federal guidelines to ensure the White House will be informed any time a Cabinet head can’t carry out their job. The Justice Department notified the White House of the plans to delegate his duties under the new guidelines, White House spokeswoman Olivia Dalton confirmed.

When Garland went in for a routine medical procedure in 2022, his office also informed the public a week in advance and outlined how long he was expected to be out and when he would return to work.

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