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Who is Robert C. O’Brien - highest-ranking Trump administration official positive for coronavirus?

09:18 | 28/07/2020

Robert C. O’Brien, President Trump’s national security adviser, has tested positive for the novel coronavirus, the White House said Monday. Below are some closer insights into his political life as one of Trump's top aides. 

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who is robert c obrien highest ranking trump administration official positive for coronavirus
Robert C. O’Brien (Photo: SCMP)

Highest-ranking Trump administration official known to have tested positive for the virus until now

According to CNN, Trump and O’Brien’s last public appearance together was over two weeks ago during a visit to US Southern Command in Miami on July 10.

O'Brien is experiencing "mild symptoms" and is "self-isolating and working from a secure location off site," according to an unnamed statement to the press from the White House.

O'Brien, one of Trump's top aides, recently returned from Europe, where he and his top deputy met with officials from the UK, France, Germany and Italy. O'Brien took a family vacation, during which he was likely exposed to the virus, immediately following his trip to Europe, a senior administration official tells CNN.

A senior administration official told CNN that O'Brien has been working from home since last week. A source familiar said O'Brien was last in the office last Thursday, when he abruptly left the White House. The White House statement said there is "no risk of exposure to the President or the Vice President."

White House chief economic adviser Larry Kudlow told reporters that one of O'Brien's daughters also contracted Covid-19 and that's how he believes he got it.

who is robert c obrien highest ranking trump administration official positive for coronavirus
O'Brien is one of Trump's top aides (Photo: The Camp)

What exactly does O’Brien do as Trump’s national security adviser?

O’Brien was appointed to be President Trump’s national security adviser on September 2019, and was replacing ohn Bolton, who was abruptly ousted from the position earlier. O’Brien was the fourth person to serve in the role.

In January during the first stage of the pandemic, O’Brien was named to the White House coronavirus task force when it was launched in January.

Last summer, O'Brien captured headlines when Trump sent him to Sweden to monitor rapper A$AP Rocky's trial for assault charges after a brawl in Stockholm. For this reason, he used to confronted with an escalating crisis in Iran.

The national security adviser works directly for the president and is typically tasked with leading the NSC staff that researches military and diplomatic options. The position works with cabinet-level officials like the defense, state and treasury secretaries to present the president with the best policy recommendations, according to Business Insider.

The Washington Post commented that O'Brien is “a team player” with "affable demeanor," stark contrast with Bolton's ideological and hard-edged management approach.

The national security adviser was born in Los Angeles and later graduated with a law degree from University of California, Berkeley. He's also the co-founder of Larson O'Brien LLP, a law firm in Los Angeles.

O'Brien has advised three presidential campaigns on foreign policy and served in various State Department roles during the Bush administration.

How O'Brien went from being a State Department official to Trump's chief hostage negotiator to a national security advisor?

O'Brien was born in Los Angeles and largely grew up there. He later graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a law degree.

O'Brien also served a member of John Bolton's team during the Bush administration. They worked together at the 60th session of the United Nations General Assembly in 2005.

From 2008 to 2011, O'Brien was appointed to advise the federal government on issues related to the trafficking of antiquities and other cultural artifacts.

During the 2016 presidential election, O' Brien collected a series of foreign policy essays into a book called "While America Slept." He tore into Obama's foreign policy and compared his nuclear deal with Iran to appeasement in Munich that emboldened Adolf Hitler in 1938. "America faces a stark choice in 2016 between a continuation of President Obama’s ‘lead-from-behind’ foreign policy and sequester-based national security approach and a return to President Reagan’s ‘leader of the free world’ foreign policy and ‘peace through strength’ national security approach," O'Brien wrote.

O'Brien praised Trump's national security strategy even before the president-elect was sworn in. In December 2016, he authored a column where he said America's allies were starting to pay more for common defense. "We may be witnessing the most impressive presidential transition from a national-security standpoint in history," he wrote.

In May 2018, Trump picked O'Brien to become his chief hostage negotiator.

who is robert c obrien highest ranking trump administration official positive for coronavirus
(Photo: Business Insider)

O'Brien has lauded Trump for helping bring Americans home. At a March press conference, he said: "The President has had unparalleled success in bringing Americans home without paying concessions, without prisoner exchanges, but through force of will and the goodwill that he’s generated around the world."

Over the summer, Trump sent O'Brien to monitor A$AP Rocky's trial for assault charges after a brawl in Stockholm. “The president asked me to come here and support these American citizens,” Mr. O’Brien told The New York Times. “I’ll be here until they come home.”

O'Brien defended Trump's decision to send him to Sweden, given he usually handles sensitive hostage negotiations in war-torn countries. "The president sent me here, so it’s totally appropriate. I also help free people that are held by governments, so unjustly detained Americans," O'Brien told reporters.

After ousting Bolton as his national security adviser over fundamental foreign policy disagreements, Trump tapped O'Brien to replace him. He made the announcement on Twitter and praised his "very successful" efforts. "I have worked long & hard with Robert. He will do a great job!" Trump tweeted.

O'Brien was reportedly boosted by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, given their work on several hostage cases. They collaborated on the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson in Turkey as well as those of other detained Americans from Afghanistan, Yemen, and Libya, as reported by Business Insider.

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