National security adviser Robert O’Brien has tested positive for the coronavirus — making him the highest-ranking Trump administration official to contract the illness, the White House announced Monday.
“National Security Adviser Robert O’Brien tested positive for COVID-19,” the White House said in a statement.
“He has mild symptoms and has been self-isolating and working from a secure location off site. There is no risk of exposure to the President or the Vice President. The work of the National Security Council continues uninterrupted.”
O’Brien, President Trump’s fourth national security adviser, has been out of the office since late last week, a person familiar with his situation told Bloomberg News.
He came down with COVID-19 after a family event and has been isolating at home while still running the National Security Council, mostly by phone, according to one of the sources cited by the outlet.
It was not immediately clear when O’Brien last met with Trump. Their last public appearance together was during a July 10 visit to US Southern Command in Miami, according to CNN.
O’Brien was named to his post in September, replacing Charles Kupperman, who served in an acting capacity after the ouster of John Bolton.
He recently returned from Europe, where he and his top deputy met with officials from the UK, France, Germany and Italy, the network reported.
Several close to Trump have caught the deadly virus while the commander-in-chief has remained uninfected.
Recently, White House coronavirus task force spokeswoman Katie Miller and a personal valet to the president both tested positive.
In May, O’Brien compared China’s handling of the pandemic to the then-Soviet Union’s response after the Chernobyl nuclear disaster in 1986.
“The cover-up that they did of the virus is going to go down in history, along with Chernobyl. We’ll see an HBO special about it 10 or 15 years from now. And so we’re in a different place with China as we speak today,” said on NBC’s “Meet the Press.”
O’Brien was responding to a question from host Chuck Todd about whether Washington was tough enough on Beijing as it tried to hammer out a trade deal with the country.
“We want good relations with China and with the Chinese people, but unfortunately we’re seeing just action after action by the Chinese Communist Party that makes it difficult. And with respect to the trade deal, we’ll see if they live up to it. But we’re dealing in a new world now with corona,” O’Brien said.
“They unleashed a virus on the world that’s destroyed trillions of dollars in American economic wealth that we’re having to spend to keep our economy alive, to keep Americans afloat during this virus,” he said.
O’Brien has dramatically slashed the size of the National Security Council — reducing the headcount to half of what it was during the Obama era.
By Yaron Steinbuch