Top Pentagon official newly installed by Trump tests positive for coronavirus

The Pentagon in Washington
The Pentagon in Washington.
(Charles Dharapak / Associated Press)

A Pentagon official installed in a top policy job last week has tested positive for the coronavirus, just days after he met with the Lithuanian defense minister, who had also contracted the virus.

Anthony Tata, who is serving as the undersecretary of Defense, was tested Thursday after learning that Lithuanian Defense Minister Raimundas Karoblis had tested positive, said chief Pentagon spokesperson Jonathan Hoffman. Tata and other senior Defense officials, including Acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller and the secretaries of the Army, Navy and Air Force, all met with Karoblis either last Friday or Monday.

Hoffman said the department is doing contact tracing and conducting rapid testing for those who came in contact with the Lithuanian delegation. Miller and other senior staff traveled with a media contingent Wednesday to meet with troops and leaders at Ft. Bragg, N.C., and then flew out to the U.S. aircraft carrier Gerald R. Ford off the coast of Virginia.


Video of the visit showed Miller shaking hands and hugging people at Ft. Bragg, and he met with sailors on the ship.

Tata, a former Fox News commentator, staunch supporter of President Trump and retired one-star general, was moved into the top policy job just a few months after he failed to receive Senate confirmation because of offensive remarks he had made, including about President Obama.

According to media reports, Tata posted tweets in 2018 calling Obama a “terrorist leader,” incorrectly referring to him as a Muslim and describing Islam as the “most oppressive violent religion I know of.” The tweets were later taken down.

A Senate committee has canceled a confirmation hearing on a controversial former general’s nomination to a top Pentagon post.

He is performing the duties of the undersecretary of Defense for policy. James Anderson, who had been acting undersecretary, resigned last week, shortly after Trump fired Defense Secretary Mark Esper and named Miller the acting Pentagon chief.

Tata is the latest top Trump administration member to become infected with the coronavirus. White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows tested positive after attending an election night party at the White House. Others who were at the party also tested positive, including White House political director Brian Jack, former White House aide Healy Baumgardner and Trump campaign advisors David Bossie and Corey Lewandowski.

There also was an outbreak at the Pentagon last month when Adm. Charles W. Ray, the vice commandant of the Coast Guard, found out he had tested positive for the coronavirus after meeting in the Pentagon with members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The assistant commandant of the Marine Corps later also tested positive, and all the chiefs were forced to quarantine at home for at least 10 days.

Hoffman said in a statement that the department has recently “recommitted to fastidiously following the CDC guidelines with respect to mitigation measures — face coverings, social distancing, contact tracing, hand-washing and virtual engagements, among others.”

Hoffman said Miller and the service secretaries aren’t going to quarantine “based on testing and mitigation measures that were in place during the Lithuanian delegation’s visit and CDC guidelines.”