Attorney General Merrick Garland will be out of commission this weekend due to back surgery and is going out of his way to make sure that there are no doubts about who will be in charge during his absence.
The unusual, early announcement by the Biden administration’s top law enforcement officer is intended to avoid the storm of criticism Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin faced recently after failing to tell colleagues and the White House when he was hospitalized for prostate cancer surgery and was readmitted for complications.
Justice Department spokesperson Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement Monday that Garland is scheduled to have a “minimally invasive back procedure” Saturday to treat spinal stenosis — a narrowing of spaces in vertebrae.
“The procedure requires general anesthesia and will last about 90 minutes. The Attorney General is likely to go home the same day,” Hinojosa said.
The statement detailed the affected vertebrae and the planned operation, but did not say where the surgery would take place or how long Garland had been suffering with the condition.
Garland, 71, will turn over his duties to the Justice Department’s No. 2 official — Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco — during the surgery and while he recovers from the anesthesia, Hinojosa said. He’s expected to return to work the following week, she said.
The advance notice from Garland appears aimed at complying with
guidelines the White House issued earlier this month, directing that Cabinet officials notify the White House chief of staff and Cabinet affairs offices and arrange a delegation of authority before medical procedures requiring general anesthesia or hospitalization, traveling to areas that lack good communications or other circumstances where they may be unreachable.