Jul 8, 2019

Trump says he'll cut off U.K. ambassador after secret memos leak

Darroch. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images

President Trump says he'll "no longer deal" with Kim Darroch, the U.K. ambassador to Washington, after Prime Minister Theresa May expressed confidence in Darroch despite leaked cables in which he questioned Trump's competence.

Why it matters: As the ambassador to a top U.S. ally, Darroch meets regularly with senior officials in the Trump administration. May will be replaced later this month, probably by the Trump-friendly Boris Johnson. If this is more than a passing dispute, Johnson will have to decide between standing by Darroch and the British diplomatic service, or making an early goodwill gesture to Trump by choosing a favorable replacement.

Context: Darroch, a highly regarded career civil servant, was due to leave Washington at the end of this year — his fourth in the post. Members of the Trump administration have been regularly spotted at events at the ambassador's residence.

“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.”
— Darroch, in a leaked 2017 memo
"I have been very critical about the way the U.K. and Prime Minister Theresa May handled Brexit. ... 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."
— From Trump's tweets today

Between the lines: The real surprise here isn't the contents of the private messages Darroch sent back to London, but the fact that they leaked to the Mail on Sunday tabloid in the first place.

  • There has been frantic speculation about the motives behind the leak.
  • One prominent theory is that the intent was to damage Darroch and a likely successor, Mark Sedwill, and boost a pro-Brexit alternative.

Go deeper

U.K. PM's office says ambassador has its support despite Trump threat

President Trump and U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May. Photo: Emmanuel Dunand/AFP/Getty Images

The U.K.'s ambassador to the U.S. has the "full support" of the prime minister, a spokesman said in a statement to news outlets. He made the comment after President Trump said he'd "no longer deal" with ambassador Kim Darroch over leaked cables showing he criticized Trump.

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."
— U.K. Prime Minister Theresa May
Go deeperArrowJul 9, 2019

Kim Darroch resigns as U.K. ambassador to the U.S.

Kim Darroch. Photo: Niall Carson/PA Images via Getty Images

U.K. Ambassador to the U.S. Kim Darroch resigned Wednesday after days of controversy over his leaked cables back to London regarding President Trump's temperament.

Why it matters: The ensuing firestorm severely damaged his public reputation with the Trump administration — kicking off a war of words between the U.S. and the U.K. — and made him a persona non grata in the White House.

Go deeperArrowJul 10, 2019

U.K. foreign secretary: Trump's comments are "disrespectful and wrong"

Trump, May and Hunt during last month's state visit. Photo: Chris Jackson - WPA Pool/Getty Images

U.K. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who is in the running to replace Theresa May as prime minister later this month, has scolded President Trump for his "disrespectful and wrong" comments about May and the U.K.'s ambassador to Washington, Kim Darroch.

Context: Darroch described Trump's administration as "inept" and "incompetent" in private memos back to London that leaked to the Mail on Sunday. After May declined to censure Darroch, Trump unleashed a series of tweets accusing the prime minister of taking a "foolish" approach to Brexit, and claiming his administration would cut off ties with Darroch.

Go deeperArrowJul 9, 2019