U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland is set to undergo back surgery this coming weekend, prompting a temporary transfer of his official responsibilities to Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco, the Justice Department confirmed on Monday.
Garland, 71, is scheduled for a “minimally invasive” medical procedure called interlaminar decompression, which is intended to alleviate stenosis in his spine. The surgery aims to alleviate persistent lower back pain from which the Attorney General has been suffering.
According to the National Health Service (NHS), interlaminar decompression is a surgical procedure used to treat spinal conditions, most commonly spinal stenosis, which is a narrowing of the spaces in the spine that can cause pressure on the spinal cord and nerves.
After surgery, the patient will be encouraged to walk and move around, and it’s likely the patient will be discharged 1 to 4 days afterward. It will take about 4 to 6 weeks to reach the expected level of mobility and function.
According to the Justice Department’s Public Affairs Director Xochitl Hinojosa, Garland will be under general anesthesia for approximately 90 minutes. During this time, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco will assume Garland’s official responsibilities.
“The delegation of his duties will go to the Deputy Attorney General shortly before the procedure, during the procedure, and for a brief period following the procedure to allow for recovery from general anesthesia,” Hinojosa said in a statement per NBC News.
“The Attorney General is expected to return home on the same day of the procedure and resume work the week of February 5th,” Hinojosa added.
More details on the Attorney General’s condition and the outcome of the surgery will likely be made available following the procedure. The Justice Department has not indicated there will be any further disruption to Garland’s duties beyond the short recovery period.
This temporary change of guard comes at a time when Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is also under scrutiny for failing to promptly disclose his hospitalization due to complications from prostate cancer treatment.
It can be recalled that Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, 70, secretly had prostate cancer surgery on December 22. He was placed under general anesthesia for the operation after being gravely ill with a spreading infection and intestinal issues requiring a tube to drain his stomach.
Then, on January 1, he was admitted to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Maryland following the complications from the surgery.
The Pentagon said that Austin did not inform Joe Biden, the White House, or Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks about the medical procedure.
Austin kept just about everyone in the dark about his condition until early January, including Joe Biden, even though the U.S. is involved in conflicts in the Middle East and Europe and a hot zone in the South China Sea.
Austin’s chief of staff, Kelly Magsamen, had previously ordered an in-house investigation of the mishandling of Austin’s absence. Magsamen has been blamed in press reports for failing to notify the White House, Congress, and senior DoD staff of Austin’s illness and absence because she was ill with the flu.
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