Top military generals at White House event before Trump COVID-19

  • At least three members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were at a White House event days before President Donald Trump, his wife, and a top aide tested positive for COVID-19.
  • Army Gen. Mark Milley, the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, as well as the top Army and Air Force generals were at a Gold Star family event on Sunday, defense officials said.
  • The Pentagon said Friday that Milley and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, who is currently overseas, have tested negative for the illness.
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At least three members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff attended an event at the White House on Sunday, days before President Donald Trump, his wife and a top aide tested positive for the illness caused by the novel coronavirus.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark Milley and the top Army and Air Force generals attended a Gold Star family event at the White House on Sunday, multiple defense officials told Military.com.

Army Chief of Staff Gen. James McConville took a COVID-19 test Friday, according to a defense official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. He’s showing no signs of the illness caused by the coronavirus, the official said, but was tested as a precaution Friday morning after the president announced he has the virus.

Results are expected Friday.

Air Force Chief of Staff Charles “CQ” Brown also attended the Sunday event, said Brooke Brzozowske, an Air Force spokeswoman. Brown tested negative before the event, the official said, and again yesterday in preparation for upcoming scheduled meetings at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland.

That test also came back negative, Brzozowske said.

Army Gen. Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, was also at the Gold Star families event, CNN reported Friday. Milley was at the Pentagon conducting his normal schedule, and is regularly tested for COVID-19, the outlet reported.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday has not had any contact with the president or White House aides, said Cmdr. Nate Christensen, his spokesman. Gilday just returned to duty at the Pentagon this week after undergoing heart surgery.

Marine Corps officials did not immediately respond to questions about whether Commandant Gen. David Berger attended the event.

— This story is developing and will be updated.

— Oriana Pawlyk and Matthew Cox contributed to this story.

— Gina Harkins can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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State Department officials to appear before House panel on inspector general’s ouster

Late Tuesday, panel Chairman Eliot L. Engel (D-N.Y.) released four memorandums that the IG’s office and State Department officials exchanged over the summer, discussing the department’s objections to the forthcoming report. The documents indicate that on July 10, senior State Department officials asked the IG to remove entire sections of information pertaining to the risk of civilian casualties posed by those arms sales from both classified and unclassified sections of the report “in order to address potential Executive Privilege concerns.”

The department official who made that demand, Assistant Secretary of State for Political and Military Affairs R. Clarke Cooper, will appear at Wednesday’s hearing. The hearing will also feature Brian Bulatao, a top aide and longtime confidant of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Marik String, the agency’s acting legal adviser.

In its response July 21, the inspector general accused the department of making “overly broad” redaction requests, and pointed out that the president must actually invoke executive privilege for it to apply.

In August, the IG’s office released its report on the emergency arms sales declaration. Its key finding was that the State Department failed to fully assess the risk of civilian casualties when it invoked a national emergency declaration in 2019 to approve the sales of weapons to Saudi Arabia without consulting Congress, where lawmakers had just passed a war powers resolution withdrawing U.S. support for a Saudi-led military campaign in Yemen.

In a statement accompanying the release of the documents, Engel said the memos “show just how hard the State Department wanted to hide the truth about last year’s phony emergency declaration. … Inspector General Steve Linick must have been quite a thorn in Mr. Pompeo’s side before Mr. Pompeo had him fired.”

Linick is one of five inspectors general fired under the Trump administration in the span of six weeks this spring. At the time of his dismissal, he was also investigating whether Pompeo had a government aide carry out personal errands for him, such as picking up his dry cleaning and walking his dog.

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