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Pentagon says ‘no change to alert levels’ amid Trump’s COVID-19 case

The Pentagon in Arlington county, Va. (Dreamstime/TNS)
October 05, 2020

The U.S. national security posture has remained unchanged since President Donald Trump tested positive for COVID-19 on Friday, the Pentagon confirmed.

“There’s been no change to DOD alert levels,” Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said in a Friday press release. “The US military stands ready to defend our country and interests. There’s no change to the readiness or capability of our armed forces.  Our national command and control structure is in no way affected by this announcement.”

Hoffman also responded to reported sightings of E-6B Mercury airborne command post aircraft and said their flights were not linked to Trump’s coronavirus diagnosis but said the aircraft were instead operating as part of pre-planned missions.

“With regard to reports about E-6B aircraft on alert status, [U.S. Strategic Command] has confirmed these E-6B aircraft were part of pre-planned missions,” Hoffman said. “Any timing to the president’s announcement was purely coincidental.”

Hoffman said Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley last met with Trump the Sunday prior to his testing positive. Hoffman said Esper had tested negative on Monday and Wednesday and was tested again on Friday ahead of existing travel plans. Milley also tested negative on Friday, according to Hoffman.

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Esper’s travel to the Middle East continued unchanged over the weekend and he met with leaders from Qatar and Kuwait on Sunday.

Jim Carafano, a national security analyst for the Heritage Foundation, told the Washington Examiner that “there really is nothing to indicate any concerns” with regards to U.S. national security.

“The military itself, I think, is basically unaffected by this announcement,” Carafano told the Washington Examiner.

“The only area of concern is going to be whether the White House and the national security council, in particular, would be able to meet quickly in these circumstances and come to an agreement quickly,” Carafano added, noting the small size of the White House situation room, and the need to maintain social distancing during the coronavirus.

Carafano also said it is unlikely that U.S. adversaries will be willing to test U.S. defenses during Trump’s active COVID-19 case.

“Serious adversaries are intimately familiar with the robustness of our command and control and wouldn’t even contemplate thinking that somehow the United States is vulnerable or compromised or weakened because of this,” he said.

On Friday, Trump was flown from the White House to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. Since his hospitalization, Trump’s medical team has indicated optimism about his case, and on Sunday Dr. Brian Garibaldi, a member of the president’s medical team, said Trump could be discharged from the hospital by Monday and could continue his treatment at the White House.