The British government is defending its ambassador to the United States as merely doing his job following reports of leaked memos in which he called President Donald Trump and his administration “dysfunctional” and “inept.”
The leak of the memos, obtained by The Daily Mail, is likely to further strain a U.S.-British relationship already facing challenges stemming in part from the Brexit crisis and from Trump’s occasional forays into British politics.
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According to The Daily Mail, in a series of secret diplomatic cables that cover 2017 to the present, Ambassador Kim Darroch had many negative things to say about Trump and his aides.
“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 wrote at one point, according to the British news outlet.
In a statement, a spokesperson for the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office didn’t specifically discuss the secret cables or name Darroch, a veteran diplomat serving as ambassador here since 2016, but effectively defended the comments reported by the Mail.
“The British public would expect our ambassadors to provide ministers with an honest, unvarnished assessment of the politics in their country,” the spokesperson said. “Their views are not necessarily the views of ministers or indeed the government. But we pay them to be candid. Just as the U.S. Ambassador here will send back his reading of Westminster politics and personalities.”
The spokesperson went on to suggest unhappiness that the information was leaked: “Of course we would expect such advice to be handled by ministers and civil servants in the right way and it’s important that our ambassadors can offer their advice and for it remain confidential.”
The spokesperson added, however: “Our team in Washington have strong relations with the White House and no doubt that these will withstand such mischievous behavior.”
Neither the White House nor the State Department immediately responded to a request for comment.
Britain has been mired for months in a series of political crises that have come about in part from its decision to leave the European Union.
British Prime Minister Theresa May is leaving office after her plans for how to handle the Brexit were rejected by lawmakers, including many from her own Conservative Party. The frontrunner to replace her is Boris Johnson, a Brexit supporter of whom Trump has repeatedly spoken fondly.
The British have been trying to strengthen their ties with the United States as they plan to exit the EU, but Trump has not made it simple. His decision to quit the Iran nuclear deal and his occasional skepticism toward NATO have put him at odds with London.
At the same time, the Trump administration, while open to the idea of negotiating a bilateral trade deal with Britain once it leaves the EU, has indicated it will take a hard line during those future talks, despite the so-called “special relationship” between the two countries.