President Donald Trump on Monday trashed Prime Minister Theresa May of Britain and threatened to “no longer deal with” the British ambassador to Washington following leaks of the envoy’s reportedly harsh assessment of Trump’s administration.
“I have been very critical about the way the U.K. and Prime Minister Theresa May handled Brexit,” Trump wrote on Twitter. “What a mess she and her representatives have created. I told her how it should be done, but she decided to go another way.”
“I do not know the Ambassador, but he is not liked or well … thought of within the U.S. We will no longer deal with him,” Trump continued. “The good news for the wonderful United Kingdom is that they will soon have a new Prime Minister. While I thoroughly enjoyed the magnificent State Visit last month, it was the Queen who I was most impressed with!”
The Daily Mail, a British tabloid, reported on Saturday that Ambassador Kim Darroch leveled various insults against Trump and his White House in memos to London dating back to 2017.
“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,” Darroch wrote in one of the documents, according to the Mail.
A U.K. government spokesperson said in response to Trump’s tweets that London had been in touch with Washington to make clear “how unfortunate this leak is.”
“The selective extracts leaked do not reflect the closeness of, and the esteem in which we hold, the relationship,” the spokesperson said.
“At the same time, we have also underlined the importance of ambassadors being able to provide honest, unvarnished assessments of the politics in their country. Sir Kim Darroch continues to have the Prime Minister’s full support.”
“The U.K. has a special and enduring relationship with the U.S. based on our long history and commitment to shared values and that will continue to be the case.”
May’s spokesman said on Monday that Downing Street had contacted the Trump administration, “setting out our view that we believe the leak is unacceptable” and calling the episode “a matter of regret,” Reuters reported. The British trade minister, Liam Fox, also told BBC Radio he would apologize to Ivanka Trump on his scheduled visit to Washington during their planned meeting.
Speaking to reporters in New Jersey on Sunday, Trump asserted that Darroch “has not served the U.K. well,” adding, “We’re not big fans of that man.”
In a news conference with May last month during his first state visit to Britain, Trump praised the outgoing prime minister as “probably a better negotiator than I am,” and said she deserved “a lot of credit” for her handling of Brexit.
Trump’s tweet immediately raised questions about the legal and diplomatic standing of Darroch, including whether the president’s tweet essentially declared the British ambassador “persona non grata.” That term is used in diplomatic circles when a country wants to kick out a foreign official or sometimes other foreigners or prevent them from entering.
Asked whether it was interpreting Trump’s tweet as declaring Darroch persona non grata, the State Department referred POLITICO to the White House. The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A former senior State Department official, however, told POLITICO that he would not interpret the tweet as having the effect of “PNG’ing” someone — at least not yet. What’s more likely is that State Department and White House officials will confer on whether to take the president’s tweet as an official instruction and, if so, tell everyone across the federal government not to engage with Darroch, the former official said. That alone could lead Britain to pull the ambassador out of Washington.
If a decision is made at higher levels to declare Darroch persona non grata, it will have to be formally communicated to him by the State Department in a special notice, the former senior department official said.