Richard Grenell, appointed by President Donald Trump as the U.S. ambassador to Germany, says he wants to “empower” anti-establishment conservative movements and leaders across the European continent ― a highly unusual statement for a diplomat.
“There are a lot of conservatives throughout Europe who have contacted me to say they are feeling there is a resurgence going on,” Grenell told the right-wing outlet Breitbart News in an interview published Sunday.
“I absolutely want to empower other conservatives throughout Europe, other leaders. I think there is a groundswell of conservative policies that are taking hold because of the failed policies of the left,” he added.
Grenell praised Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, who has been called the new face of European right-wing populism for his stance against immigration and refugee migration, as a “rockstar.”
It’s unclear if Grenell’s statements were approved by the State Department. Diplomats are traditionally expected to maintain their political neutrality and not interfere in the internal affairs of other nations.
Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called Grenell’s comments “awful,” and criticized him for overstepping the boundaries ambassadors are supposed to set for themselves.
When I raised concerns to Grenell about politicizing this post, he personally assured me that once he became Ambassador he would stay out of politics. This interview is awful – Ambassadors aren't supposed to "empower" any political party overseas. https://t.co/i8oOhqEk5k
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) June 3, 2018
Tom Wright, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, tweeted that Grenell had created a “huge headache” for top State Department officials. Wright also speculated that the envoy’s comments would heighten tensions within the Trump administration between Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Grenell, a Republican and outspoken Trump ally, worked with Bolton when the latter served as the ambassador to the United Nations ambassador under President George W. Bush.
He won Senate confirmation to his ambassador’s post in April by a 56-42 vote, despite criticism from Democrats about his “misogynistic and other incendiary statements online” ― particularly toward women in the media.