President Donald Trump criticized the British ambassador to Washington following the leak of memos penned by the envoy describing his administration in unflattering terms.
The Foreign Office is investigating the leak after the Mail on Sunday newspaper reported that Kim Darroch, a career diplomat who’s been his country’s top representative in Washington since 2016, described Trump as “inept” and “incompetent” in diplomatic cables and briefing notes to his bosses.
“We’re not big fans of that man, and he has not served the U.K. well,” Trump told reporters as he departed Morristown, New Jersey, for Washington on Sunday. “I can say things about him, but I won’t bother.”
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who’s currently vying to become U.K. prime minister, sought to distance himself from the sentiment in the ambassador’s cables, telling ITV News that Darroch expressed “a personal view.”
A Foreign Office spokeswoman earlier described the leaks as “mischievous behavior” and said diplomats are paid to be candid. International Trade Secretary Liam Fox told BBC Radio on Monday there’s no reason Darroch shouldn’t remain in post, and called for the person responsible for the leak to be found and punished.
“I don’t see frankly that this is an impediment to the ambassador being able to work in Washington,” Fox said. “Malicious leaks of this nature are unprofessional, they’re unethical and they’re unpatriotic because they can actually lead to damage to that relationship which can therefore affect our wider security interests.”
The Mail on Sunday reported that Darroch described the current White House as “uniquely dysfunctional” and given to “knife fights.”
Darroch, 65, is a former national security adviser to the U.K. government.
In the memos seen by the paper, Darroch didn’t rule out Trump being indebted to “dodgy Russians,” yet said that the president had frequently overcome a life “mired by scandal.”
Trump may “emerge from the flames, battered but intact, like [Arnold] Schwarzenegger in the final scenes of ‘The Terminator,’” Darroch wrote, according to the newspaper. “Do not write him off.”
The leak comes after Trump traveled to the U.K. in early June to meet Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Theresa May, a visit in which he was treated to a state dinner. Darroch said Trump and his team had been “dazzled” by the pomp and circumstance surrounding the visit but remained self-interested.
The Foreign Office didn’t deny the accuracy of the memos. A spokeswoman said in a statement that “we pay them to be candid. Just as the U.S. ambassador here will send back his reading of Westminster politics and personalities.”
Hunt said Sunday that Darroch’s assessments were “not the views of the British government, they are not my views and we continue to think that under President Trump, the U.S. administration is not just highly effective, but the best possible friend of the United Kingdom on the international stage.”
The response to Darroch’s commentary cleaved along partisan lines. Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, a close ally whom the president once said would make a “great” ambassador to the U.S., called the incumbent envoy “totally unsuitable for the job.” On Monday, he told BBC radio that he himself wouldn’t be the “right man” for the job, but that he could be “very useful” to Britain in strengthening ties with the Trump administration.
“Experienced, capable and patriotic diplomats doing their jobs well by writing unvarnished analysis for their governments,” political scientist Ian Bremmer, head of Eurasia Group, said on Twitter. “Farage wants him sacked; he’d rather be lied to.”