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Britain’s ambassador to US quits after leaked cables on Trump

Published:Thursday | July 11, 2019 | 12:13 AM
US President Donald Trump.
US President Donald Trump.


Britain’s ambassador to the United States resigned Wednesday after being made a diplomatic nobody by President Donald Trump following the leak of the envoy’s unflattering opinions about the US administration.

Veteran diplomat Kim Darroch said he could no longer do his job in Washington after Trump branded him a fool and cut off all contact with the representative of one of the US’s closest allies.

The break in relations followed a British newspaper’s publication on Sunday of leaked documents that revealed the ambassador’s dim view of Trump’s administration, which Darroch described as dysfunctional, inept and chaotic.

“The current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like,” Darroch said in his resignation letter.

‘Diplomatically clumsy and inept’

In the leaked documents, he called the Trump administration’s policy towards Iran “incoherent”, said the president might be indebted to “dodgy Russians”, and raised doubts about whether the White House “will ever look competent”.

“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,” one missive said.

Prime Minister Theresa May and other British politicians have praised Darroch and condemned the leak in recent days. Some also accused Boris Johnson, who is likely to be picked as Britain’s next prime minister later this month, of failing to stand up for the UK’s envoy in Washington because he wanted to curry favour with Trump.

“The fact that Sir Kim has been bullied out of his job, because of Donald Trump’s tantrums and Boris Johnson’s pathetic lick-spittle response, is something that shames our country,” said Emily Thornberry, the spokeswoman on foreign affairs issues for the main opposition Labour Party.

Darroch had been set to retire at the end of the year. It’s unclear whether May will have time to name a replacement before she leaves office later this month.

Appointing ambassadors usually involves a formal civil service process with advertisements, applications and interviews, though Simon McDonald, head of Britain’s diplomatic service, said the post of ambassador to the US wasn’t always chosen that way.

“History shows that there are often bespoke procedures for filling the embassy in Washington, DC,” he said.

Darroch announced his decision the morning after a debate between the two contenders to replace May as party leader and prime minister, Johnson and Jeremy Hunt.

Hunt, who is Britain’s foreign secretary, vowed to keep Darroch in the post, but Johnson pointedly did not.

“I think it’s very important we should have a close partnership, a close friendship with the United States,” Johnson said.

Darroch’s forthright, unfiltered views on the U.S. administration — meant for a limited audience and discreet review — appeared in the leaked documents published by Britain’s Mail on Sunday newspaper.

Darroch had served as Britain’s envoy to Washington since 2016; the leaked cables covered a period from 2017 to recent weeks.

British officials are hunting for the culprit behind the leak, which was both an embarrassment to May’s government and a major breach of diplomatic security.

“We will pursue the culprit with all the means at our disposal,” Foreign Office chief Simon McDonald told a committee of lawmakers.