“I haven’t seen him lately,” Trump said as he left the White House for a trip to North Carolina.
The president was not wearing a mask. Federal health officials recommend face coverings as a front-line defense against spread of the virus that has shuttered schools and businesses and altered much of daily life.
“He has mild symptoms and has been self-isolating and working from a secure location off site,” the White House said 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.”
O’Brien is in frequent contact with Trump and is known to be in the inner ring of his advisers. They last appeared publicly together during a visit to the U.S. Southern Command in Florida on July 10, before O’Brien left for a trip to Europe that spanned several days.
O’Brien has told friends that he thinks he became infected at a family gathering roughly a week ago, one person familiar with his case said. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the case on the record.
White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters at the White House on Monday that he believes that O’Brien’s daughter also had contracted the virus and that O’Brien could have been infected by her.
“I think it’s a light case,” Kudlow said. “I wish him well. . . . He’s a fabulous colleague and a brilliant policymaker.”
One of Trump’s military valets and Vice President Pence’s press secretary have previously tested positive for the virus.
O’Brien, who was appointed to his role in September, was named to the White House coronavirus task force when it was launched in January.
O’Brien’s tenure has been calmer than the incendiary one of his predecessor, John Bolton. A foreign policy hawk, especially in regard to China, O’Brien was among the first administration officials to squarely blame China for failing to stop the virus from spreading beyond its borders.
Speaking at a foreign policy forum on Feb. 5, O’Brien said China hid the extent of the outbreak in its early weeks and cost the rest of the world precious weeks to prepare. At that time, Trump was still saying that the virus was not a threat to the United States and that Chinese President Xi Jinping was doing a good job containing the outbreak.
O’Brien’s positive test was first reported by Bloomberg News.