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

Attorney General Merrick Garland is preparing for back surgery scheduled for this Saturday, during which he will temporarily delegate his duties, according to a spokesperson from the Justice Department. The surgery, described as minimally invasive, is expected to allow Garland, aged 71, to return home the same day. While undergoing the approximately 90-minute procedure under general anesthesia, Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco will assume responsibility for Garland’s duties.

This announcement comes amidst heightened scrutiny over transparency surrounding high-ranking officials’ medical absences, sparked by the recent undisclosed hospitalization of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. Austin’s hospitalization, resulting from complications following prostate cancer surgery, was not immediately disclosed to the media or senior administration officials, prompting concerns about communication within the Biden administration.

In response to these concerns, the White House has implemented new guidelines for agencies to notify key absences promptly, aiming to improve transparency and communication during such instances. Furthermore, Austin’s chief of staff has initiated a 30-day review of the Pentagon’s notification processes, while the Defense Department inspector general has launched a separate investigation into the adequacy of policies for transferring power and duties during similar situations.

Garland’s forthcoming surgery underscores the importance of effective communication and transparency within government agencies, particularly regarding health-related absences of senior officials. By adhering to established protocols and ensuring clear lines of communication, the administration aims to maintain continuity and effectiveness in governance, even amidst unexpected medical circumstances. As Garland undergoes his procedure and temporarily delegates his duties, the Justice Department remains committed to upholding its responsibilities and serving the American people.

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