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Trump will ‘no longer deal’ with UK envoy who panned him

LONDON: President Donald Trump threatened on Monday to cut off contact with Britain’s ambassador to the United States after leaked diplomatic cables revealed the envoy called the Trump administration “dysfunctional” and “inept”.

The US leader tweeted about Ambassador Kim Darroch a day after a British newspaper published the diplomat’s unflattering assessments of the current administration in Washington.

“I do not know the Ambassador, but he is not liked or well thought of within the US. We will no longer deal with him,” Trump wrote.

Read: Britain’s envoy terms Trump govt ‘uniquely dysfunctional’

The documents published in the Mail on Sunday newspaper have created awkwardness among countries that are longtime allies. British officials said they were hunting for the culprit behind the leak, which was both an embarrassment to Prime Minister Theresa May’s government and a major breach of diplomatic security.

Darroch has served as Britain’s envoy to Washington since 2016. The cables cover a period from 2017 to recent weeks. His statements included calling the Trump administration’s policy toward Iran “incoherent”, saying the president might be indebted to “dodgy Russians” and raising doubts about whether the White House “will ever look competent”.

“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,” one missive said.

The documents were intended for senior UK ministers and civil servants. Government officials think the mole will be found among British politicians or officials, not in foreign governments or among people who aren’t British.

“I’ve seen nothing to suggest hostile state actors were involved,” said May’s spokesman, James Slack.

Some UK diplomatic cables go to more than 100 recipients, though more sensitive messages have a smaller distribution list.

The inquiry is being led by civil servants in the Cabinet Office, and Slack said police would only be called in “if evidence of criminality is found”.

But Conservative UK lawmaker Tom Tugendhat, who chairs parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said he wrote to the chief of London’s Metropolitan Police asking for a criminal investigation into the leak.

It’s possible the leaker could be charged with breaching the Official Secrets Act, which bars public servants from making “damaging” disclosures of classified material. Breaching the act carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison, though prosecutions are rare.

Published in Dawn, July 9th, 2019

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