Sir Kim Darroch resigned as Britain’s ambassador to the U.S. this week after President Donald Trump blasted him for leaked memos showing he told London that Trump was “inept” and “dysfunctional.” But another powerful ambassador who slammed the president in private remains a close ally of the Trump administration.
Yousef Al Otaiba, the well-connected envoy from the United Arab Emirates, has been in frequent contact with the president’s son-in-law and adviser Jared Kushner, and his country is an important node in the Trump team’s controversial relationship with Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia.
In 2016, however, Otaiba repeatedly bashed Trump in conversations with associates, including an aide to President Barack Obama, according to personal emails obtained and independently verified by HuffPost.
“How/why is this happening??” Otaiba wrote to then-White House Middle East official Rob Malley on the night of the election. “On what planet can trump be a president??”
Months earlier, he told Fox News personality and former New York Times reporter Judith Miller that paying attention to the then-Republican nominee wasn’t worth it.
“The 7 minutes I spent reading this was the equivalent of watching 7 minutes of donald trump. A waste of my time,” Otaiba wrote on May 9, 2016, in response to material Miller sent him that appeared to show Saudi disdain for his boss, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of Abu Dhabi.
HuffPost published the comments on June 5, 2017, after a still-unknown leaker or leakers shared messages from Otaiba’s inbox with multiple outlets, including The New York Times and The Intercept, amid a spat between the UAE and the neighboring nation of Qatar.
Otaiba did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment at the time and did not do so for this story, either.
On what planet can trump be a president?? UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba in an email on election night 2016
Despite the revelations of Otaiba’s views of Trump and his hidden contributions to a public relations campaign against Qatar that U.S. officials say undermines the U.S. alliance system in the Middle East, the ambassador remained in his job and months later received a coveted promotion.
He has maintained influence in Washington even as his country has been criticized for its role in a vicious Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen, including the reported torture and sexual abuse of detainees in UAE-controlled facilities and scrutinized as part of probes into Russian interference in the 2016 election.
George Nader, an adviser to UAE leadership, was a witness for former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation and was arrested last month on allegations of transporting child pornography. Another UAE ally, Erik Prince of the disgraced former military contractor Blackwater, lied to Congress about his interactions with Russians and Nader, per Mueller’s final report. (The two men brought Donald Trump Jr. an offer for UAE assistance for his father’s campaign in 2016, The New York Times reported, but it isn’t clear a partnership ever panned out.)
Yet while Otaiba still seems to be in the White House’s good books, the U.K.’s Darroch received days of personal abuse on Twitter from Trump after the Mail on Sunday released excerpts of a memo he wrote sharing unflattering assessments of Trump in 2017. The British ambassador was disinvited from a high-profile dinner and lost a key meeting with Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, the last slight convincing him he had to leave his position, HuffPost UK reported.
The contrast between the two cases underscores the sway that the UAE, home to some of the president’s business interests and a partner in his maximum pressure strategy against Iran, has established in Trump’s Washington as traditional allies like Britain have faced unprecedented criticism.
And the similarities between the two ambassadors’ views of Trump’s capabilities offer succor to Darroch and his defenders. The point of having a diplomat abroad is to share honest assessments so governments can make smart choices, supporters of Darroch in the U.K. have noted, and for all the hoopla, the Brit made sure to never cause offense in public ― just like Otaiba.
Otaiba and his embassy do not appear to have commented on the flap.
The White House did not respond to HuffPost’s request for comment on why Trump treated the assessments from the two ambassadors differently.