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U.K. Defends Ambassador Over Alleged Memos Critical of Trump

The Wall Street Journal. logoThe Wall Street Journal. 07/07/2019 Jason Douglas
a man wearing a suit and tie © Niall Carson/Zuma Press

LONDON—The U.K. Foreign Office defended its ambassador to the U.S. after a British newspaper published what it said were leaked diplomatic cables to London critical of President Trump.

The Mail on Sunday said that in the cables Kim Darroch, the U.K.’s ambassador in Washington, described Mr. Trump’s administration as “clumsy” and “inept,” and criticized the president’s policies on Iran and trade.

A spokesman for the Foreign Office declined to comment on the cables’ authenticity, saying the ministry never comments on alleged leaks. But he said the U.K. government pays its ambassadors to be candid.

Video: Trump: 'We're not big fans' of UK ambassador to US (Reuters)

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“The British public would expect our ambassadors to provide ministers with an honest, unvarnished assessment of the politics in their country,” the spokesman said. He added that Britain has strong relations with the White House, which “will withstand such mischievous behavior.”

Speaking to reporters in New Jersey, Mr. Trump was critical of Mr. Darroch.

“The ambassador has not served the U.K. well,” Mr. Trump said, later adding: “We’re not big fans of that man.”

U.S. President Donald Trump boards Air Force One to return to Washington from Morristown Municipal Airport in Morristown, New Jersey, U.S. July 7, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst © Thomson Reuters U.S. President Donald Trump boards Air Force One to return to Washington from Morristown Municipal Airport in Morristown, New Jersey, U.S. July 7, 2019. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

Downing Street and Mr. Darroch declined to comment.

One of the cited cables said: “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.”

Queen Elizabeth II and U.S. President Donald Trump participate in an event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, in Portsmouth, Britain, June 5, 2019. Chris Jackson/Pool via Reuters © Thomson Reuters Queen Elizabeth II and U.S. President Donald Trump participate in an event to commemorate the 75th anniversary of D-Day, in Portsmouth, Britain, June 5, 2019. Chris Jackson/Pool via Reuters

But it added the president could survive the controversies that have beset him and he could “emerge from the flames, battered but intact, like Schwarzenegger in the final scenes of The Terminator.”

Mr. Darroch’s alleged assessment of the Trump administration risks upsetting relations between Washington and London at a crucial time for the U.K.

LONDON, June 4, 2019 -- U.S. President Donald Trump L and British Prime Minister Theresa May leave 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, on June 4, 2019. British Prime Minister Theresa May said Tuesday that she and U.S. President Donald Trump wanted an ambitious trade agreement after Brexit. (Xinhua/Alberto Pezzali) (Xinhua/Alberto Pezzali via Getty Images) © Xinhua News Agency LONDON, June 4, 2019 -- U.S. President Donald Trump L and British Prime Minister Theresa May leave 10 Downing Street in London, Britain, on June 4, 2019. British Prime Minister Theresa May said Tuesday that she and U.S. President Donald Trump wanted an ambitious trade agreement after Brexit. (Xinhua/Alberto Pezzali) (Xinhua/Alberto Pezzali via Getty Images)

Britain is seeking to extricate itself from the European Union and forge closer ties with the U.S. and other allies around the world.

Gallery: Trump visits UK: pomp, circumstance and protests (USA Today)

Mr. Trump paid a state visit to the U.K. last month, during which he hailed trans-Atlantic ties and talked up the prospect of a swift trade deal between the U.S. and Britain once its EU withdrawal is complete.

Members of the Baby Trump Balloon team set up the Donald Trump baby balloon in Parliament Square, London on the second day of the state visit to the UK by US President Donald Trump. (Photo by David Mirzoeff/PA Images via Getty Images) © PA Wire/PA Images Members of the Baby Trump Balloon team set up the Donald Trump baby balloon in Parliament Square, London on the second day of the state visit to the UK by US President Donald Trump. (Photo by David Mirzoeff/PA Images via Getty Images)

One memo cited by the newspaper said Mr. Trump and his team had been “dazzled” by the visit, saying “this had been a visit like no other—the hottest ticket in their career.” But it added “This is still the land of America First.”

The leaks were seized on by anti-EU groups in the U.K. Leave. EU, a pro-Brexit campaign group, said via its verified Twitter account that the leaked cables were “Yet more proof of civil servants’ raging desperation to retain Britain as a vassal of the EU.” It said Mr. Darroch was “maniacally trying to kill the Special Relationship” with the U.S. 

There will be a formal investigation into the leak, a person familiar with the matter said.

Mr. Darroch has been in the post since 2016 after stints in Japan and as the U.K.’s ambassador to the EU.

Following his election that year, Mr. Trump called on London to install Nigel Farage, a figurehead of the British euroskeptic movement who now leads the Brexit Party, as its U.S. ambassador. Downing Street said at the time there was no vacancy.

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