AN INVESTIGATION has been launched to find out who leaked criticisms of Donald Trump from private memos by Britain’s ambassador to the US.
The Foreign Office has begun the inquiry after it emerged that Sir Kim Darroch had said the US president was ‘insecure’, ‘inept’ and ran a ‘uniquely dysfunctional’ White House.
Cabinet minister David Gauke condemned the ‘disgraceful’ leak and said ambassadors should feel able to ‘tell the truth as they see it’ without fear of their words being made public.
Last night Mr Trump took a swipe back at Sir Kim, saying: ‘The ambassador has not served the UK well, I can tell you that.’ Speaking to reporters in New Jersey, he added: ‘We’re not big fans of that man… So I can understand it, so I can say things about him but I won’t bother.’ Tom Tugendhat, the chairman of the foreign affairs committee, called for the person responsible to be prosecuted.
The Tory MP told BBC Radio 4: ‘This is a very serious breach of confidence. Diplomatic telegrams are secret, and the reason is diplomats must be able to communicate securely with their governments in order to convey the messages everybody needs to know.’
In the messages written between 2017 and the present, Sir Kim said British officials granted audiences with Mr Trump should shower him with praise and speak ‘simply, even bluntly’.
He warned that the president might be indebted to ‘dodgy Russians’ and said his economic policies could wreck the world trade system. He said Mr Trump’s team had been ‘dazzled’ when they accompanied him on his State Visit to Britain — and boasted the UK team had the ear of ‘Trump whisperers’ close to the president.
Among critics who responded by calling for Sir Kim, 65, to resign was Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage — once touted as a potential ambassador to the US by his friend Mr Trump. The diplomat is ‘totally unsuitable for the job and the sooner he is gone the better’, Mr Farage wrote.
Some commentators questioned the timing of the revelations — weeks before the arrival in No.10 of a new PM who will have the power to replace the ambassador.
Tory party members have been sent their ballot papers for the vote to decide between the frontrunner Boris Johnson and his rival Jeremy Hunt.
And Sky News political editor Beth Rigby said the leak appeared ‘designed to undermine Darroch just as Johnson looks set to enter No 10’.
There were fears last night Sir Kim’s accusations could harm the special relationship. The Foreign Office played down the potential impact, saying ambassadors’ opinions were ‘not necessarily the views of the government’.
A spokesman added: ‘We pay them to be candid, just as the US ambassador here will send back his reading of Westminster politics and personalities. Our team in Washington have strong relations with the White House and we have no doubt that these will withstand such mischievous behaviour.’
Foreign secretary Mr Hunt said: ‘This was a personal view. It’s not the view of the British government. It’s not my view. We continue to think that under president Trump the US administration is not just highly effective but the best possible friend of the UK on the international stage.’
Mr Tugendhat responded to the speculation about the motive for the leak by saying: ‘I don’t know who benefits from this, frankly. I know who loses — the British people, and that is unacceptable.’
Shortly after Sir Kim was appointed in 2016, a memo from him was leaked that said Mr Trump was ‘open to outside influence if pitched right’. He hosted afternoon tea at the British Embassy in Washington to mark the president’s inauguration in 2017.
What our ambassador said in his secret cables
‘As seen from here, we really don’t believe that this Administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional, less unpredictable, less faction-riven, less diplomatically clumsy and inept.’
‘I don’t think this Administration will ever look competent.’
‘For a man who has risen to the highest office on the planet, President Trump radiates insecurity.’
(On the UK state visit) ‘His team were also dazzled, telling us that this had been a visit like no other — the hottest ticket of their careers. These are close contacts, with whom we have spent years building relationships: they are the gate keepers and the ‘Trump whisperers’ — the individuals we rely upon to ensure the UK voice is being heard in the West Wing.’
(On Iran airstrikes) ‘It’s more likely that he was never fully on board and that he was worried about how this apparent reversal of his 2016 campaign promises would look come 2020.’
(On collusion between Trump, pictured, and Russia) ‘The worst cannot be ruled out.’
‘It’s important to ‘flood the zone’: you want as many as possible of those who Trump consults to give him the same answer. So we need to be creative in using all the channels available to us through our relationships with his Cabinet, the White House staff, and our contacts among his outside friends.’
‘Trump may emerge from the flames, battered but intact, like Schwarzenegger, in the final scenes of The Terminator.’