However, the two senior administration officials said the White House pushed the Pentagon to send out a news release once they learned DOD wasn’t working on one. Sullivan and Zients called Magsamen on Thursday, telling her it was vital a public statement about Austin’s hospitalization go out as soon as possible.
The Pentagon blasted its announcement Friday, only moments after informing senior Pentagon officials and lawmakers.
Pentagon spokespeople didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Austin’s team has come under intense scrutiny for failing to tell the White House and senior Pentagon staff about Austin’s situation for three days. The criticism intensified after doctors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center revealed Austin received a prostate cancer diagnosis in early December — but
President Joe Biden only found out this Tuesday. Both men spoke on the phone last Saturday, a cordial conversation where Austin failed to tell the president about his diagnosis, the White House confirmed.
Biden doesn’t want to fire Austin and has said he wouldn’t accept his resignation if offered. The secretary is recovering well and his prognosis is good, Walter Reed doctors said Tuesday. Austin has resumed his full duties while still in the hospital.
Sullivan and deputy national security adviser Jon Finer were scheduled to attend an event with Austin at Joint Base Myer last Thursday, the two senior administration officials said, adding it was shortly before that gathering that Sullivan learned where Austin was and why.
Republicans and Democrats are calling for an investigation into the lack of disclosures from the Pentagon. Magsamen has already ordered a 30-day review of the department’s notification policies, and
Zients asked Cabinet members to look into their delegation authority practices.