In a cache of leaked diplomatic cables, the British ambassador to Washington described the White House as “uniquely dysfunctional” and warned his counterparts back home that President Donald Tump was “inept” and “insecure” and that his administration could collapse in “disgrace.”
In the leaked briefs and memos, the British ambassador, Sir Kim Darroch, worried that Trump might be in debt to “dodgy Russians.” He also claimed that Trump could wreck the world trade system and that his administration might go to war with Iran.
In one cable, Darroch wrote, “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.”
Excerpts from the cables were published late Saturday by The Mail on Sunday, a British tabloid, under a banner headline that described the cache of documents as a “bombshell.” The cables date from 2017 until the present.
The British news media, including the state-supported BBC, picked up the news and broadcast them to wide audiences here.
The British Foreign Office called the leak “mischievous,” but did not challenge the authenticity of the cables.
“The British public would expect our ambassadors to provide ministers with an honest, unvarnished assessment of the politics in their country,” the Foreign Office said in a statement.
“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.”
Foreign Office officials were signaling that diplomats the world over send their home offices bits of color, news clippings, gossip and analysis.
Neither the White House nor the president commented on the leaks by midday in Britain.
The British ambassador, while harsh, also warned his counterparts not to underestimate Trump.
“Do not write him off,” Darroch wrote.
Though “mired in scandal,” he wrote that Trump could “emerge from the flames, battered but intact, like Schwarzenegger in the final scenes of ‘The Terminator.'”
The frank assessment of Trump was sent to officials in Prime Minister Theresa May’s government. The Mail newspaper only named one recipient, May’s national security adviser Mark Sedwill.
May and Trump have had a fractious relationship, with the president alternatively praising the outgoing prime minister for her grit and insulting her as a weak negotiator.
In one of the memos, Darroch referred to “knife fights” between British diplomats and the Trump team.
Trump has often said that he could have won a better deal for Britain’s exit from the European Union. In one exchange, Trump famously suggested that May “sue” the trade, travel and security bloc, in which Britain remains a member. May suggested she thought that funny.
Relations between Trump and 10 Downing Street, however, appeared to be on the upswing since Trump’s official state visit in June, when he came to England to dine with Queen Elizabeth II and commemorate the 75th anniversary of allied forces D-Day assault against the Germans in France.
After all the pomp and circumstance, Trump said in an interview, that “there are those that say they have never seen the queen have a better time, a more animated time.”
In one of his notes home, the British ambassador praised the trip, writing that the White House and Trump were “dazzled” by their reception.
“These are close contacts, with whom we have spent years building relationships: These are the gatekeepers and the ‘Trump whisperers,’ the people we rely upon to ensure the U.K. voice is heard in the West Wing,” Darroch wrote.
May is now on the way out, pushed from power by her own Conservative Party, over her failure to deliver Brexit. She is most likely to be replaced the former London Mayor Boris Johnson, for whom Trump has expressed admiration.
Darroch called the 2017 White House as “a uniquely dysfunctional environment,” writing in that same letter that “we could also be at the beginning of a downward spiral, rather than just a roller coaster: something could emerge that leads to disgrace and downfall.”
The author of the The Mail on Sunday scoop is the political journalist and commentator Isabel Oakeshott, who wrote an authorized biography of former prime minister David Cameron and was the ghost-writer behind the book “The Bad Boys of Brexit,” by Arron Banks, one of the main financial backers of the June 2016 referendum campaign to leave the European Union.
After the material was published, the Brexit campaigner and Trump ally Nigel Farage said in a tweet that the British ambassador should be sacked.
“Kim Darroch is totally unsuitable for the job and the sooner he is gone the better,” said Farage.
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · William Booth