Queen Elizabeth II, President Donald Trump and first lady Melania Trump, from left, attend an event to mark the 75th anniversary of D-Day in Portsmouth, England Wednesday, June 5, 2019. World leaders including U.S. President Donald Trump are gathering Wednesday on the south coast of England to mark the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham)
In recently leaked diplomatic memos sent to the British Foreign Commonwealth Office, British Ambassador to the U.S. Sir Kim Darroch delivered some nasty blows to President Trump and his administration. He wrote, “As seen from here, we don’t really believe this administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional; less unpredictable; less faction riven; less diplomatically clumsy and inept.” In fact, it’s a real possibility that “his career could end in disgrace.” I posted about this story here.
The President spoke to reporters briefly on Sunday and said, “You know, we’ve had our little ins and outs with a couple of countries and I would say that the Ambassador has not served the U.K. well. I can tell you that we’re not big fans of that man… I could say things about him, but I won’t bother.”
On Monday afternoon, Trump reacted to the insulting cables by tweet. He wrote:
I have been very critical about the way the U.K. and Prime Minister Theresa May handled Brexit. What a mess she and her representatives have created. I told her how it should be done, but she decided to go another way. I do not know the Ambassador, but he is not liked or well thought of within the U.S. We will no longer deal with him. The good news for the wonderful United Kingdom is that they will soon have a new Prime Minister. While I thoroughly enjoyed the magnificent State Visit last month, it was the Queen who I was most impressed with!
According to Bloomberg, an administration official reported that Sir Kim had been disinvited from a Monday evening dinner party at the home of U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The guests of honor will be President Trump and the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim Bin Hamad Al Thani.
A U.K. government official issued a statement that was cordial, but very direct. It said:
We have made clear to the U.S. how unfortunate this leak is. The selective extracts leaked do not reflect the closeness of, and the esteem in which we hold, the relationship. At the same time we have also underlined the importance of ambassadors being able to provide honest, unvarnished assessments of the politics in their country. Sir Kim Darroch continues to have the Prime Minister’s full support.
The U.K. has a special and enduring relationship with the U.S. based on our long history and commitment to shared values and that will continue to be the case.
The lack of warmth in the statement may be related to Trump’s frequent criticism of Prime Minister Theresa May’s handling of Brexit. She will soon be stepping down and Boris Johnson has the best chance of succeeding her.
Moreover, the Brits were unhappy with Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal.
U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt told The Sun that it’s “possible the leak might be the result of a hack by a hostile government. Of course it would be massively concerning if it was the act of a foreign, hostile state. I’ve seen no evidence that that’s the case, but we’ll look at the leak inquiry very carefully.”
Trade minister Liam Fox said he “would offer an apology to Ivanka Trump during a meeting in Washington.”
The Washington Post’s Josh Dawsey tweeted, “Trump’s own team likes the ambassador and regularly dines and socializes at the embassy with him.”
Fierce Trump critic George Conway, husband of White House Counsel Kellyanne Conway, replied “Indeed they do. They never miss parties at the British Embassy. They love the ambassador, as does everyone else (except for a certain narcissist-in-chief). Frankly, the ambassador was being kind in his assessment of the narcissist-in-chief.”
No surprise there.
Finally, although this type of incident is rare, it is not without precedent. Fox News’ Gregg Re wrote:
British ambassdor Lionel Sackville-West was summarily sacked in 1888 for writing the so-called Murchison letter, which touched off a firestorm by indicating that Britain preferred Grover Cleveland over Republican Benjamin Harrison. (Republicans publicized the letter, helping Harrison win the White House.)
And in May 1856, President Franklin Pierce expelled John F. Crampton, then the British ambasador to the U.S., and several other British diplomats, following a lengthy spat over British efforts to recruit North Americans to fight in Crimea.
“It’s not entirely unprecedented,” Dan Drezner, Professor of International Politics at The Fletcher School of Tufts University, told Fox News. “When WikiLeaks released a trove of diplomatic cables, the Bolivarian leader of Ecuador expelled the U.S. Ambassador. Even in that case, however, the Ecuadoran government went through the proper diplomatic channels. A PNG-by-tweet for the leak of cables confirming mainstream media reporting of the Trump administration is definitely new.”