The Slatest

U.K. Ambassador Resigns After Calling Trump White House “Inept” in Leaked Cable

U.S. and U.K. flags leading to Buckingham Palace in central London.
Better days in the special relationship.
Ben Stansall/Getty Images

British Ambassador to the U.S. Kim Darroch resigned Wednesday after his unflattering private assessment of the Trump White House in confidential diplomatic cables was leaked to a British tabloid over the weekend. Darroch described President Donald Trump as “insecure” and his administration as “inept” and “dysfunctional” in memos published by the Daily Mail. Darroch’s truth-telling stung Trump, who took it personally and fired back, calling Darroch a “wacky Ambassador,” “a pompous fool,” and “a very stupid guy,” before promising that, more crucially, “we will no longer deal with him.” Peering through the usual Trump rhetorical fireworks, it was that last threat of a diplomatic cold shoulder that was particularly worrying for the U.K., for obvious historical, political, and economic reasons that have taken a heightened sense of strategic importance given the U.K.’s imminent separation from its other close allies in the European Union. The Trump administration appeared to be following through on its threat, disinviting Darroch, who had served in the post since 2016, from a White House dinner Monday night, meaning that despite being faultless in the brouhaha, the diplomat likely had to go, one way or another.

On Wednesday, Darroch decided to pull the rip cord himself. “Since the leak of official documents from this Embassy there has been a great deal of speculation surrounding my position and the duration of my remaining term as ambassador,” Darroch wrote in his resignation letter. “The current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role as I would like. Although my posting is not due to end until the end of this year, I believe in the current circumstances the responsible course is to allow the appointment of a new ambassador.”

“On behalf of the Diplomatic Service, I accept your resignation with deep personal regret,” Simon McDonald, permanent undersecretary at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, responded to Darroch’s resignation. “Over the last few difficult days you have behaved as you have always behaved over a long and distinguished career, with dignity, professionalism and class. The Prime Minister, Foreign Secretary and whole of the public service have stood with you: you were the target of a malicious leak; you were simply doing your job.”

Not-for-long Prime Minister Theresa May had initially offered her support for the ambassador’s frank assessment, if not his conclusions, reminding everyone the job of the ambassador is to “provide honest, unvarnished assessments of the politics in their country.” But it was the U.K.’s likely next prime minister, Boris Johnson, who hung Darroch out to dry during a party-leadership debate ahead of Conservative Party vote later this month. Johnson’s lack of support reportedly prompted the ambassador to tender his resignation, while heaping domestic pressure on Johnson for appearing to cow to the Trump administration.