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U.K. Ambassador To U.S. Resigns After Criticizing Trump Administration

Jul 10, 2019
Originally published on July 11, 2019 1:34 pm
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STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

The U.K. ambassador to the United States is resigning. In diplomatic cables, Sir Kim Darroch described the White House as being inept and said the president radiates insecurity. These and others were widely reported assessments made even by some of the president's supporters at times. What was unusual here is that a diplomat who reported this back privately to London found that his assessment leaked to the media. President Trump responded in his usual way on Twitter, calling the ambassador, quote, "a very stupid guy."

NPR's Frank Langfitt is covering this story from London. Hi, Frank.

FRANK LANGFITT, BYLINE: Good morning, Steve.

INSKEEP: What reason did Kim Darroch give for resigning?

LANGFITT: Well, he said it was impossible for him to do his job anymore. He just - this was very recently, just this morning. He said his posting is not due to end until the end of the year, but he said under the current circumstances, somebody else should be appointed ambassador. And what's been interesting is there's a lot of support for him. He's very well-thought-of here in London. And speaking in Parliament today, Prime Minister May was clearly unhappy with what had happened, and this is how she put it.

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PRIME MINISTER THERESA MAY: That it is a matter of great regret that he has felt it necessary to leave his position.

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MAY: The whole Cabinet rightly gave its full support to Sir Kim on Tuesday.

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MAY: Sir Kim has given - Sir Kim has given a lifetime of service to the United Kingdom, and we owe him an enormous debt of gratitude.

INSKEEP: Well, help me figure out what happened to Sir Kim, here, Frank. If I understand this correctly, this leaked in a British paper, and people...

LANGFITT: The Mail on Sunday, yes.

INSKEEP: And people wondered, was this really about President Trump, or was this about some domestic political move in Britain?

LANGFITT: I think it actually - I think somebody seems not to like Mr. Darroch very much and certainly was undermining him. That's the general theory. Although, there's also an investigation going on on the leak, and they are also looking if a foreign government might have had anything to do with this, as we know as with WikiLeaks and cables from the United States State Department in the past, other people have gotten involved in outing, you know, these things that are supposed to be private. But what we're seeing now is, I think, a lot of anger because what happened overnight is, there was a debate between Boris Johnson, who's expected to become prime minister, and Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary who's running also to replace Prime Minister May. And this question came up, and Mr. Johnson did not come out and support Mr. Darroch. And the theory at the moment is that he thought he wasn't going to have any support so why stay on?

INSKEEP: So it's possible that Boris Johnson struck the final blow here against...

LANGFITT: I think that's the sense at the moment. It's too early to say. Mr. Darroch is not speaking publicly about this other than the letter. But I watched the debate last night, and when I watched that, it struck me, certainly, and it struck many others, that it was clear that he wasn't - Jeremy Hunt came to the defense of Kim Darroch and said he should stay on, and I would keep him on. And Boris Johnson refused to say that he would keep him on for the rest of his term.

INSKEEP: Who gets to appoint the next U.K. ambassador to the United States?

LANGFITT: Well, I mean, Mrs. May is still in office for a very short period of time. It's not likely that she would do it. She's probably only in for a couple more weeks. But then it would probably be Boris Johnson. And we'll have to see. He's still likely, even with the criticism that he might be receiving today about this - he's already being criticized for not standing up for Kim Darroch last night - he would put somebody in. And presumably, it would be somebody who's a lot more Brexit-oriented, someone who was much more of a Brexiteer. Kim Darroch had worked in Brussels. He was seen very much as a Europhile. And in terms of - you know, President Trump is a Brexiteer, as well. And so the thought is whoever would be the next ambassador would be somebody a lot more closely aligned with Boris Johnson and, frankly, President Trump.

INSKEEP: Isn't a good ambassador supposed to be, in part, like a good journalist and report back frankly?

LANGFITT: This is exactly - and everyone says this, is Kim Darroch was only doing his job, and the only thing that happened is somebody outed him. But this is exactly what ambassadors do all the time.

INSKEEP: Frank, thanks for the insights.

LANGFITT: Happy to do it, Steve.

INSKEEP: That's NPR's Frank Langfitt in London. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.