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Merrick Garland to briefly hand off attorney general duties while he undergoes back surgery

<i>Eduardo Munoz/Pool/Getty Images/File</i><br/>Attorney General Merrick Garland
Eduardo Munoz/Pool/Getty Images/File
Attorney General Merrick Garland

By Hannah Rabinowitz and Evan Perez, CNN

(CNN) — Attorney General Merrick Garland is scheduled to undergo back surgery on Saturday and delegate his duties for a time during the procedure, according to a Justice Department spokesperson.

The procedure is minimally invasive, department spokesperson Xochitl Hinojosa said in a statement, and Garland, 71, is likely to go home the same day.

When Garland is under general anesthesia for the procedure, which lasts about 90 minutes, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco will assume his duties.

While Garland’s announcement follows the typical protocol for top government officials, such medical absences have come into the spotlight after Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s recent hospitalization was not disclosed to the media or to President Joe Biden and other senior administration officials for days.

The defense secretary returned to work at the Pentagon on Monday. He was admitted to the hospital on New Year’s Day due to complications from surgery to treat prostate cancer in late-December.

After Austin’s unannounced hospitalization raised major questions about transparency and communications within the Biden administration, the White House issued new guidelines for agency notification of key absences following its review of each federal agency’s plans for “delegation of authority” when a Cabinet member is unable to perform his or her duties.

Additionally, Austin’s chief of staff directed a 30-day review of the Pentagon’s processes and procedures for notifying senior national security leaders and the White House when the defense secretary needs to transfer authorities to the deputy secretary, which was required during Austin’s hospitalization. The Defense Department inspector general also launched a separate investigation into whether the Pentagon had the appropriate policies in place to ensure an effective transfer of power and duties.

CNN’s Oren Liebermann contributed to this report.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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