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.
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 February 5.
Austin returned to the Pentagon on Monday after nearly a monthlong absence. He underwent a surgical procedure for the cancer on December 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 until days later that he had cancer, had surgery or returned to the hospital.
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 Cabinet chiefs can’t carry out their jobs. 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.