- The Washington Times - Monday, July 27, 2020

The coronavirus infiltrated the top of the Trump administration Monday when the White House disclosed that National Security Adviser Robert C. O’Brien had tested positive for COVID-19.

He is the most highest-ranking member of the administration known to test positive for the potentially deadly virus, while the White House said President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence had not been infected.

Mr. O’Brien had mild symptoms and has been self-isolating and working from a “secure location” off-site, according to the White House.

“There is no risk of exposure to the president or the vice president,” the White House said. “The work of the National Security Council continues uninterrupted.”

As he was departing for North Carolina, Mr. Trump said he hadn’t seen Mr. O’Brien lately and that he didn’t know when he had tested positive.

The president is tested daily.

The disclosure brings the disease to the highest level of Mr. Trump’s advisers. Mr. O’Brien’s office is down the hall from the Oval Office, and he meets with the president frequently.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow described the affliction as a “light case” and said Mr. O’Brien might have been infected by his daughter.

“I spoke to him last week. I don’t have much to say. I wish him well,” Mr. Kudlow said. “I believe his daughter was ill first.”

Mr. O’Brien, 54, took over as national security adviser last September after the departure of John R. Bolton.

He is the third known person within the White House orbit to have contracted the virus.

Katie Miller, a spokeswoman for Vice President Mike Pence, returned to work in late May after testing positive.

The White House had announced in early May that one of Mr. Trump’s valets had also tested positive.

The White House last month relaxed its requirement that visitors have to get a COVID-19 test before entering the complex, with exceptions for people who are in proximity to Mr. Trump or Mr. Pence.

In June, eight members of the White House advance team, including two Secret Service agents, tested positive ahead of the president’s rally in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Kimberly Guilfoyle, a top fundraising official for the president’s reelection campaign, tested positive in July. Ms. Guilfoyle is dating Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son.

Mr. O’Brien’s positive diagnosis comes amid a resurgence of the coronavirus in the South and West.

More than 4.2 million positive cases and more than 147,000 coronavirus-related deaths have been recorded in the U.S.

Mr. Trump and his team have been trying to highlight recent progress on coronavirus vaccines and therapeutics, including Moderna’s announcement Monday that it has started human trials on a top vaccine candidate in partnership with the National Institutes of Health.

The president also has shifted some of his public posturings on the virus in recent days.

Mr. Trump has talked up the importance of wearing masks after downplaying their utility earlier in the year.

He announced last week that the Jacksonville portion of the Republican National Convention would be canceled because of the pandemic. Mr. Trump had forced the RNC to relocate from North Carolina so there could be a massive in-person celebration.

Mr. Trump also has started participating in more virtual events, though he is slated to attend an in-person fundraiser in hard-hit Texas on Wednesday.

In late May, Mr. O’Brien praised the president’s response to the pandemic and defended Mr. Trump’s taking the malaria drug hydroxychloroquine as a preventative measure.

“I’m not concerned about his health,” Mr. O’Brien said on CBS’s “Face the Nation.” “The guy’s got more energy than anyone I’ve ever seen. He works 16,18 hours a day.”

Mr. O’Brien is a former special presidential envoy for hostage affairs at the State Department. He also worked under President George W. Bush as a representative to the United Nations, continuing in Mr. Bolton’s footsteps as a Trump official with connections to the last GOP administration.

⦁ Dave Boyer contributed to this report.

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