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Top general negative for coronavirus, Pentagon chief to get tested after Trump result

Top general negative for coronavirus, Pentagon chief to get tested after Trump result
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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley has tested negative for the coronavirus, and Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperBiden nominates female generals whose promotions were reportedly delayed under Trump Overnight Defense: Capitol Police may ask National Guard to stay | Biden's Pentagon policy nominee faces criticism | Naval Academy midshipmen moved to hotels Former Trump Defense chief Esper to join McCain Institute MORE will be tested Friday, the Pentagon said after President TrumpDonald TrumpUS, South Korea reach agreement on cost-sharing for troops Graham: Trump can make GOP bigger, stronger, or he 'could destroy it' Biden nominates female generals whose promotions were reportedly delayed under Trump MORE tested positive for the virus.

“The secretary, Mrs. [Leah] Esper, Chairman Milley, and Mrs. [Hollyanne] Milley send their thoughts and prayers to the president and first lady for a swift recovery,” chief Pentagon spokesman Jonanthan Hoffman said in a statement Friday.

“The secretary has expressed his appreciation for the White House’s military medical team and is confident that they will ensure that the president and first lady — like all members of our military family — will continue to receive the best medical care in the world,” Hoffman added.

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Trump and first lady Melania TrumpMelania TrumpMissouri pastor faces backlash after suggesting wives should lose weight, strive to look like Melania Trump The Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by ExxonMobil - FBI director testifies on Jan. 6 Capitol attack Overnight Health Care: Senate to vote on .9 trillion relief bill this week | J&J vaccine rollout begins | CDC warns against lifting restrictions MORE tested positive for COVID-19 late Thursday and are experiencing mild symptoms. A person with COVID-19 can be contagious a few days before becoming symptomatic.

Both Milley and Esper were last with Trump on Sunday for an event at the White House for Gold Star families.

Esper, who has been traveling in Africa this week, was tested Monday and Wednesday as part of his travel routine and came back negative both times, Hoffman said. It can take several days after exposure for a coronavirus test to come back positive.

Esper will be tested again Friday "as planned for continuation of his travel," Hoffman said. Milley was tested Friday morning and was negative, according to the statement.

Esper will not be returning to the United States early, Hoffman added.

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Trump’s diagnosis, which came after close aide Hope HicksHope HicksUPDATED: McEnany, Fox News talks on pause Trump selects Hicks, Bondi, Grenell and other allies for positions Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis tests positive for coronavirus MORE tested positive for the virus, sent immediate shockwaves through the United States, raising questions about both the political and national security implications.

On national security, observers quickly questioned whether U.S. adversaries would seek to exploit a perceived weakness while the president is ill.

The Pentagon on Friday downplayed those concerns.

“There’s been no change to [Defense Department] alert levels,” Hoffman said. “The U.S. 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 shot down online speculation that routine flights early Friday of Boeing E-6B Mercury aircraft, which send instructions to the U.S. fleet of nuclear-armed ballistic missile submarines, were meant as a message to U.S. adversaries after Trump’s diagnosis.

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