Austin to testify at Feb. 29 House hearing on secret hospitalization

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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will testify before the House Armed Services Committee at the end of the month over his decision to hide his recent cancer diagnosis and subsequent hospitalization from the country’s top officials. 

Austin has agreed to testify on Feb. 29, a House aide confirmed to The Hill late Tuesday.  

House Armed Services Chair Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) last month called for Austin to appear before the committee on Feb. 14 to answer on “decisions made to withhold information from the President, Congress, and the American people.” 

He also launched a formal inquiry in January as to why Austin kept private his hospitalization, which began Jan. 1 and lasted for weeks after the Pentagon chief got an infection stemming from an earlier surgery in December to treat prostate cancer. For three days after he was admitted, Austin did not inform the White House nor his deputy, Kathleen Hicks. 

And for more than a month, Austin also did not inform the White House or other top Pentagon officials of his cancer diagnosis, which he received in early December.  

Rogers told Politico that the reason for the amended date was due to a calendar conflict Austin had. 

The hearing will likely be heated given that several GOP lawmakers, as well as one Democrat, have called for Austin to step down.  

The Pentagon chief has profusely apologized for the lapse in communication, last week appearing in the Pentagon press briefing room for the first time since his hospitalization. 

“I want to be crystal clear: We did not handle this right. I did not handle this right. I should have told the president about my cancer diagnosis,” Austin said during the Feb. 1 appearance. “I should have also told my team and the American public, and I take full responsibility. I apologize to my teammates and to the American people.” 

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