Britain's Ambassador To The U.S. Resigns Under Pressure From President Trump

Jul 10, 2019
Originally published on July 10, 2019 7:53 pm
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Leaked cables and a Twitter tirade by President Trump have caused Britain's ambassador to Washington his job. Today Sir Kim Darroch announced that the current situation is making it impossible to carry out the role as he would like, so he's leaving a post that he was due to hold until the end of the year.

NPR's Michele Kelemen reports the situation brought back some memories for U.S. diplomats, too.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: Former U.S. Ambassador Ronald Neumann says Sir Kim Darroch did the right thing by resigning.

RONALD NEUMANN: Your primary purpose as a diplomat and certainly as the ambassador is to get your government, the country of assignment to do what your government wants. And if your effectiveness is seriously impaired, then you're probably correct to leave.

KELEMEN: President Trump was making clear his administration wouldn't work with the British ambassador, blasting him on Twitter as a, quote, "pompous fool" and a very stupid guy. Neumann says that the ambassador wasn't treated fairly. He was only doing his job, but it's clear that job became impossible after a British newspaper published leaked diplomatic cables in which the ambassador described the Trump administration as inept.

NEUMANN: It's sort of the keeping of the times in social media. This kind of thing happens. You know, we lost several ambassadors as a result of WikiLeaks.

KELEMEN: Gene Kretz was one of them. He was ambassador to Libya when WikiLeaks published thousands of U.S. diplomatic cables in November 2010. Kretz had written about then-Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi - about Gaddafi's health, his reliance on a, quote, "voluptuous blonde Ukrainian nurse" and, Kretz says, more importantly, about the massive corruption of the Gaddafi regime.

GENE KRETZ: So it was quite strong stuff that, obviously, none of us wanted to see in public. And that's - you know, we had hoped and we had written those kinds of things with the express understanding, or confidence, that wouldn't be made public.

KELEMEN: For Kretz, there were a couple of weeks of uncertainty when he wasn't sure if he would be allowed to stay.

KRETZ: Then our assistant secretary, Jeff Feltman, came, and we were told in explicit terms that either I go, or something bad could happen. And so we left right around Christmas. But it wasn't until the actual threat was made against me that the secretary decided that it was time to leave.

KELEMEN: The situation was a bit less dramatic for Carlos Pascual, who was the ambassador to Mexico at the time of WikiLeaks. According to a former State Department official, Mexico's president told Obama that he would no longer deal with Pascual, so the ambassador resigned. That was similar to what happened to British Ambassador Sir Kim Darroch this week. U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt today expressed regret at the ambassador's resignation.

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JEREMY HUNT: We had a fine diplomat who was just doing what he should've been doing - giving a frank assessment, a personal assessment of the political situation in the country that he was posted. And that's why I defended him. And I think we all should.

KELEMEN: He says he's confident that British ambassadors will continue to provide objective and rigorous reports. Former Ambassador Kretz echoes that sentiment.

KRETZ: You have to be in a position where your ambassadors and your representatives abroad can give, you know, unadulterated truth to power back in their home country because if you don't have that, then what's the purpose of having people that you send abroad, you know, because you trust them to do that?

KELEMEN: After WikiLeaks, some U.S. diplomats said they were more careful about what they put in writing, and they expect the next British ambassador here will do the same. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, the State Department.

(SOUNDBITE OF JOANNE SHENANDOAH'S "FEATHER FROM HEAVEN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.