Merrick Garland to undergo back surgery 



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Attorney General Merrick Garland will undergo back surgery this weekend and delegate his duties to his deputy attorney general while he is in surgery, the Justice Department announced Monday.

Garland, 71, will undergo a “minimally invasive” back procedure on Saturday expected to last about 90 minutes, Xochitl Hinojosa, director of public affairs at the Justice Department, said in a statement shared by The Associated Press. He will be under general anesthesia during the surgery, Hinojosa reportedly added.

Garland is expected to return home the same day, but will delegate his duties to Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco shortly before, during and shortly after the surgery, the statement said, per the news wire. Garland is slated to return to work the week of Feb. 5.

The announcement came on the same day Defense Secretary Llyod Austin returned to the Pentagon after a weeks-long hospitalization earlier this month.

Austin was hospitalized on Jan. 1 for an infection stemming from a Dec. 22 surgery for prostate cancer. The Defense Department said Austin conducted “his duties from home since his release from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Jan. 15.”

His hospitalization sparked controversy on Capitol Hill after lawmakers learned the White House and Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks were not made aware of his hospitalization until Jan. 4. Austin did not reveal his prostate cancer diagnosis until Jan. 9, nearly a month after an early December health screening discovered the cancer.

The apparent lack of communication prompted the Pentagon to conduct a 30-day internal review on policies and procedures.

The DOD inspector general also launched an investigation into the incident and the White House is reviewing protocols for how Cabinet officials delegate authority.

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