Donald Trump’s national security adviser has tested positive for coronavirus, making him the highest-ranking US official to test positive so far, according to sources.
The White House confirmed that Robert O’Brien has mild symptoms and “has been self-isolating and working from a secure location off site”.
Officials did not respond to questions about the last time the president and Mr O’Brien had contact, but the White House said there was “no risk of exposure to the president or the vice president” and the “work of the National Security Council continues uninterrupted”.
Mr Trump told reporters as he left the White House on Monday that he was not sure when Mr O’Brien had tested positive and had not “seen him lately”, but would be giving him a call.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow had said earlier that Mr O’Brien’s daughter also has the virus, and that that is how officials think he was exposed.
Mr O’Brien also recently returned from a trip to France, where he met senior European officials and was photographed standing close to others and not wearing a mask.
He is the highest-ranking White House official known to have contracted the virus and the first since May, when a personal valet to the president and the vice president’s press secretary tested positive for the virus that has now infected more than four million people nationwide.
Numerous US Secret Service agents and Trump campaign staff have also tested positive, including national finance chairwoman Kimberly Guilfoyle, who is the girlfriend of Mr Trump’s oldest son, Donald Trump Jr.
Senior White House staff and anyone who comes into close contact with the president and vice president are tested for the virus daily, but mask-wearing remains lax across the White House complex.
Mr Trump, who has long dismissed the severity of the virus and claimed wrongly earlier this month that 99% of cases were “totally harmless”, said in a recent interview that he had personally “lost five people, probably six, actually, as of this moment, I think, pretty soon” to the virus.
Mr O’Brien is the president’s fourth national security adviser, having been named in September to replace John Bolton, who was ousted over policy disagreements and went on to write a scathing tell-all book about his time at the White House.
Mr O’Brien had previously served as Mr Trump’s top hostage negotiator and successfully worked for the release of several Americans, including pastor Andrew Brunson, who spent two years in a Turkish prison.
The Republican lawyer, who also worked in the administrations of George W Bush and Barack Obama, is generally seen as a jovial presence, frequently stopping by to chat with reporters travelling aboard Air Force One. He typically works from a corner office on the first floor of the White House, a few steps from the Oval Office.