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National News

National Security Adviser O'Brien Tests Positive for the Coronavirus

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National Security Adviser O'Brien Tests Positive for the Coronavirus

2020-07-28 14:56:45

By Laura Tucker, Staff writer; Image: Robert C. O'Brien (Image source: Public domain)

The coronavirus keeps getting closer and closer to Donald Trump. Before the Tulsa rally, more than 10 of his staff tested positive, including some secret service members and Donald Trump Jr.'s girlfriend Kimberly Guilfoyle. Also, former Republican presidential candidate Herman Cain is still hospitalized with COVID-19 after catching it at the Trump rally.

And now, National Security Adviser Robert C. O'Brien has tested positive, the highest-ranked member of the administration to be affected. The United States logged more than 26,000 new cases on Monday, and O'Brien was one of them.

Previously a hostage negotiator, O'Brien took over the position as national security adviser after John Bolton left. He was one of the first in the administration to blame China for not stopping the virus.

On February 5, O'Brien said China hid the extent of the outbreak early on, costing the rest of the world the time it needed to prepare for the onslaught of the virus. Trump was still saying then it was not a threat to the United States and that Chinese President Xi Jinping was doing a good job containing it.

On Monday, Trump said he hadn't seen O'Brien recently. It's not known, however, how this may have affected other employees, such as who he was close to in the past couple of weeks when he may have contracted it.

"[O'Brien] has mild symptoms and has been self-isolating and working from a secure location off site," said the White House in a statement. "There is no risk of exposure to the president or the vice president. The work of the National Security Council continues uninterrupted."

Answers have not been provided on how it was discovered O'Brian was sick. For some time now the White House has been doing COVID-19 testing that provides rapid results on anyone who will be close to Trump.

O'Brien has been regularly working in his office at the White House, and most National Security staff members and other White House staff members have been working in their offices as well. There doesn't seems to be many people working from home here.

"I haven't seen him lately," Trump said as he left for a trip to North Carolina to tour a biotech lab that's involved in the vaccine research. "I heard he tested, yeah," he added, announcing that he planned to call his adviser later in the day.

Despite the virus creeping closer to him and touting the benefits of mask-wearing recently, Trump was not wearing one as he spoke and was not seen wearing one while visiting the Fujifilm Diosynth Biotechnologies facility in Morrisville, North Carolina.

After he was finally seen wearing a mask for the first time a few weeks ago, Trump said he would wear one when necessary but that he didn't need to do so when everyone around him has been tested.

He has said he gets tested daily, and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said last week that he is tested sometimes more than once a day, which does seem a bit excessive. Later, the president said that's not true.

After his tour of the facilities, Trump compared the need for a vaccine to a wartime effort. He predicted there would be a quick economic rebound and threw out some misleading statistics about testing. He also said his reelection campaign shows he's leading in opinion polls, and there hasn't been a poll published that has said that yet.

"We need all Americans to be conscious about their actions and to exercise extreme vigilance," said Trump. "I trust all Americans to do the right thing, but we strongly advise everyone to especially, especially, focus on maintaining a social distance, maintaining a rigorous hygiene, avoid large gatherings and crowded indoor bars, and wear masks when appropriate. "

This was said while he was not wearing a mask and with the knowledge that many of his own staff tested positive at an event that packed people in closely together and where many didn't wear masks.

This was also said knowing that O'Brien had tested positive. He's one of Trump's inner circle of advisers so is in frequent contact with him. July 10 was the last time they appeared together publicly when they visited the U.S. Southern Command in Florida. After that, he was in Europe for several days,

The adviser  has told friends he believes he became infected at a family gathering bout a week ago, said a person familiar with the situation.

White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said on Monday he believes O'Brien's daughter has COVID-19 as well and that he could have caught it from her. "I think it's a light case," he said. "I wish him well. ... He's a fabulous colleague and a brilliant policymaker." 

Along with the staff that tested positive on Monday, one of Trump's military valets and Mike Pence's press secretary had tested positive earlier. 

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