Donald Trump‘s National Security Advisor is taking his wife on a tour of romantic Mediterranean and European capitals this week, despite ordinary Americans being banned from such travel due to the pandemic.
O’Brien’s representation of the United States at a ceremony in Paris was announced by the White House on Sunday.
He will be at events marking the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development Convention (OECD).
The release did not detail that O’Brien’s wife, Lo-Mari, would be joining him.
Robert O’Brien and his wife Lo-Mari will land in Paris on Monday at the start of their tour
O’Brien, who took the job in September 2019, has only 40 days left in government
With only 40 days left of the Trump administration, O’Brien, 54, will travel on after Paris to London, Tel Aviv, and Rome, Axios reported.
The reason for his trip – the OECD ceremony – is also noted for featuring many virtual addresses, with world leaders not traveling due to the pandemic.
Emmanuel Macron, the French president and host, will be there but many other world leaders are not.
One overseas diplomat told Axios the spousal travel is concerning because government employees have to shepherd the visitors, and every additional person is a COVID-19 risk.
A spokesman for the National Security Council said that Lo-Mari’s travel costs would be paid for by the O’Briens, rather than taxpayers.
‘While we don’t comment on spousal travel on specific trips, anytime Ambassador O’Brien has his wife on official trips, any associated costs for her travel are paid for by Ambassador O’Brien and there is no additional cost to taxpayers,’ said John Ullyot, National Security Council spokesperson.
The O’Briens will visit the French capital first, and then London
The couple will explore Rome during their four-nation visit
They will also travel to Israel, to the city of Tel Aviv, whose modern skyline is seen from Jaffa
Lo-Mari O’Brien holds the Bible as he is sworn in as envoy for hostage affairs in July 2018
O’Brien is pictured with Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law, in Israel in August
In the fall the State Department’s director of policy planning tested positive for COVID having toured Europe.
Governments in Budapest, London and Paris, as well as U.S. diplomats, expressed alarm at a possible outbreak.
Mike Pompeo, the Secretary of State, has raised eyebrows recently by bringing his wife along on foreign visits.
On Thursday a long-awaited investigation into Susan Pompeo’s jet-setting found that she did not break any federal ethics rules.
But the department’s acting inspector general, Matthew Klimow, also determined that the State Department did not secure proper written approval or documentation for six of Susan Pompeo’s eight trips covered by the investigation.
In addition, the inspector general angrily rebutted accusations by Secretary Pompeo’s aides that the investigation was a ‘waste of time.’
The investigation was begun under the leadership of inspector general Steve Linick, whom Pompeo fired in the spring after telling Trump he no longer had confidence in Linick.
At the time, Linick had opened several investigations touching on Pompeo, and his dismissal was roundly criticized by ethics watchdogs and congressional Democrats.
Mike Pompeo and his wife Susan, pictured in Athens in October 2019, travel frequently
The Pompeos, pictured in August in the Czech Republic, have been investigated for their trips
Pictured in Istanbul in November, the Pompeos on Thursday were cleared of ethics violations
Pompeo has previously defended his wife’s presence on his international trips by noting that she does work with diplomats’ families and is a ‘force multiplier’ in boosting morale at overseas posts.
Previous secretaries of state had often brought their spouses along with them on official foreign travel, but since the late 1990s, it has been a rare because of family circumstances.
Neither Madeleine Albright nor Condoleezza Rice was married. Colin Powell’s wife, Alma, preferred not to travel; Hillary Clinton’s husband, Bill, a former president, presented security issues and never traveled with her; and John Kerry’s wife, Teresa Heinz, suffered a brain injury early in his term, which left her unable to travel.