President Trump’s ambassador to Germany provoked a backlash from politicians on both sides of the Atlantic after saying he wants to “empower” European conservatives.
“I absolutely want to empower other conservatives throughout Europe, other leaders,” the ambassador, Richard Grenell, told Breitbart News in comments published Sunday. “I think there is a groundswell of conservative policies that are taking hold because of the failed policies of the Left.”
Critics accused the ambassador of undiplomatic meddling in foreign countries’ domestic affairs. Germany’s foreign ministry announced it was seeking a clarification of his remarks. The ministry, which is led by a member of the country’s left-leaning Social Democrat party, said it would address the issue on Wednesday when Grenell meets with a deputy foreign minister.
Grenell’s Breitbart interview marks the second time he’s caused political turbulence in his new job since he started about a month ago. Within hours of arriving to his post in Berlin in May, Grenell sent out a tweet that was widely interpreted as threatening U.S. sanctions against German companies if they continued doing business with Iran.
His latest comments come as observers warn Trump’s policies are creating new rifts between the U.S. and its European allies, including over his decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate treaty, and to slap new tariffs on imports of European steel.
Rolf Muetzenich, deputy leader of the Social Democrats in Germany’s parliament, told Reuters the issue should be raised with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“Clearly the U.S. ambassador sees himself as an extension of a right-wing conservative world movement,” Muetzenich said.
Chris Murphy, Democratic U.S. senator from Connecticut, blasted Grenell’s remarks.
“This interview is awful,” Murphy tweeted. “Ambassadors aren't supposed to ‘empower’ any political party overseas.”
Grenell fired back at his critics.
“The idea that I’d endorse candidates/parties is ridiculous,” he wrote. “I stand by my comments that we are experiencing an awakening from the silent majority — those who reject the elites & their bubble. Led by Trump.”
In his interview, however, Grenell did specifically endorse the 31-year-old conservative Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who has called efforts to stem illegal immigration into Europe a “key priority.”
“Look, I think Sebastian Kurz is a rockstar. I’m a big fan,” Grenell told Breitbart.
“I look across the landscape and we’ve got a lot of work to do, but I think the election of Donald Trump has empowered individuals and people to say that they can’t just allow the political class to determine, before an election takes place, who’s going to win and who should run,” Grenell told Breitbart.
Asked to comment, a spokesperson for the U.S. embassy in Berlin pointed to Grenell’s tweet, and said that the ambassador also has a high regard for Germany’s sitting chancellor, Angela Merkel.
“I’d add that the ambassador has been clear in his interviews that he admires and respects the chancellor, and so has President Trump,” said Bill Martin, spokesperson for the U.S. Embassy in Berlin.
Before becoming U.S. ambassador to Germany, Grenell spent years working as a Republican political operative and advisor, and briefly served as national security spokesman for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential campaign. A former Fox News contributor, he also worked as spokesman for the U.S. delegation to the United Nations under former President George W. Bush.
He’s made headlines for reportedly being the highest-ranking openly gay official in the Trump administration.
Cover image: Newly accredited US Ambassador Richard Allen Grenell gets in his car after an accreditation ceremony for new Ambassadors in Berlin, Germany, on May 08, 2018. (Photo by Odd ANDERSEN / AFP)