FCO to probe leak of ambassador memos about 'dysfunctional' White House

Written by Beckie Smith on 8 July 2019 in News

Foreign Office says ambassadors must be able to give "honest, unvarnished" opinions in confidence

Ambassador Kim Darroch. Photo: PA

The Foreign Office is launching an investigation into the leak of a confidential memo from the UK’s ambassador to the United States that branded the Trump administration “uniquely dysfunctional”.

The department is preparing to open its formal investigation after diplomatic documents detailing Sir Kim Darroch’s assessments of the Trump White House since 2017 were leaked to the press.

One of the documents, seen by the Mail on Sunday, warned that president Donald Trump's administration could “crash and burn” and that “we could be at the beginning of a downward spiral... that leads to disgrace and downfall”.


Elsewhere in the documents, 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.”

The Foreign Office has defended the comments, saying the public expects ambassadors “to provide ministers with an honest, unvarnished assessment of the politics in their country”.

“Their views are not necessarily the views of ministers or indeed the government. But we pay them to be candid,” a spokesperson said yesterday.

The spokesperson said relationships between the White House and UK officials in Washington would “withstand such mischievous behaviour”, but added: “It’s important that our ambassadors can offer their advice and for it to remain confidential.”

The department confirmed it would open an inquiry later the same day.

The civil service has come under fire in recent weeks for several high-profile leaks to the press.

Last week, cabinet secretary Sir Mark Sedwill wrote to the permanent secretaries of all government departments to stress that unauthorised briefings to the media would "not be tolerated" following a row over claims about Jeremy Corbyn's health.

The Labour Party called for an inquiry into what it called an “unconstitutional political intervention” in which civil servants were overheard at an event saying the opposition leader was “too frail” to be prime minister.

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