Diplomatic Spat Continues Between Trump And British Ambassador To Washington

Jul 9, 2019
Originally published on July 9, 2019 6:08 pm
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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

President Trump stepped up his Twitter attacks on the British ambassador to the U.S. today, calling him wacky and saying the U.K. foisted him upon the U.S. British officials say Sir Kim Darroch was only doing his job, sending back his insights into the workings of the Trump administration. In leaked cables, he describes the Trump White House as inept, as NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: President Trump writes on Twitter that he doesn't know Ambassador Kim Darroch but was told that he is a, quote, "pompous fool" and a "very stupid guy." He should speak to his country and prime minister about their failed Brexit negotiations and not be upset with my criticism of how badly it was handled, Trump says in one of numerous tweets on the subject. White House counselor Kellyanne Conway says it's up to the next British prime minister to decide what to do with Darroch.

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KELLYANNE CONWAY: The president's made very clear the way he feels about the ambassador and those comments and the way he felt - how Brexit was handled. I mean, it looks like we're on the precipice of having a brand-new prime minister.

KELEMEN: British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, one of the men running to become the next U.K. prime minister, says if he wins, the ambassador will stay. Hunt calls Trump's comments disrespectful and wrong, pointing out that it's the job of ambassadors to give their private opinions to their governments. U.S. ambassadors all over the world were put in similarly awkward situations when WikiLeaks published U.S. diplomatic cables nearly a decade ago. State Department spokesperson Morgan Ortagus says officials there will deal with all accredited diplomats until it hears otherwise from the White House.

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MORGAN ORTAGUS: We have an incredibly special and strategic relationship with the United Kingdom. That has gone on for quite a long time, and it's bigger than any individual. It's bigger than any government. It's something that has stood the test of time and will continue to do so.

KELEMEN: Governments can kick out ambassadors, declaring them persona non grata. If they don't, they have to deal with them. That's usually the way it works, says former foreign service officer Brett Bruen.

BRETT BRUEN: So for the president of the United States to say - well, stay, but I'm not going to deal with you any longer; my government isn't going to deal with you any longer - is really a cop out. You either boot him out of the country, or you button it.

KELEMEN: The Twitter insults, he argues, are just making matters worse.

BRUEN: All it does is harm U.S.-U.K. relations at a critical time; at a juncture when we can least afford it for the U.S. and the U.K. to have daylight between us, to have difficulties between us.

KELEMEN: The British ambassador was uninvited to a dinner last night with the visiting emir of Qatar. And today the Commerce Department canceled a meeting with the U.K. trade minister that the ambassador was due to attend. The U.S. and U.K. are trying to negotiate a post-Brexit trade deal. An official says the Commerce Department is working to reschedule the meeting at a, quote, "mutually agreeable time."

Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.