President Donald Trump's newly-appointed U.S. ambassador to Germany, Richard Grenell, has angered officials there by signaling that he aims to act as a spokesperson for right-wing policies promoted by Trump and other European leaders—prompting some to call for his expulsion from Germany less than a month into his new role.
"If people like U.S. ambassador Richard Grenell believe they can dictate like a lord of the manor who rules in Europe and who doesn't, they can no longer remain in Germany as a diplomat," Sahra Wagenknecht, co-chair of the left-wing party Die Linke, told Die Welt.
In a recent interview with the far-right publication Breitbart News, formerly run by ousted Trump strategist Stephen Bannon, Grenell promoted the agenda of Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz, a critic of Merkel who presides over a coalition with the nativist Freedom Party and has threatened immigrants who do not "integrate" into Austrian society with financial sanctions.
Grenell referred to Kurz as a "rock star" in the interview, and explained, "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."
"There are a lot of conservatives throughout Europe who have contacted me to say they are feeling there is a resurgence going on," he added.
The statement suggested that Grenell intends to go well beyond the scope of normal diplomatic duties as ambassador, raising concerns both abroad and in the United States.
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
I know you are still quite new at your post, but it is not part of the job description of an ambassador to interfere in the politics of his guest country, Mr @RichardGrenell #thankyou https://t.co/Wi5uF9WjCO
— Lars Klingbeil (@larsklingbeil) June 4, 2018
"What this man is doing is unheard of in international diplomacy," Martin Schulz, the former leader of Germeny's Social Democratic party, told the German news agency DPA.
Grenell also requested a meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a close Trump ally, when he was in Berlin to see German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Monday.
This is big: Netanyahu reveled he will meet in Berlin soon the new US ambassador to Germany under fire for rightwing support, Richard Grenell, at Grenell’s request
— Noa Landau (@noa_landau) June 4, 2018
Grenell's stated goal of strengthening right-wing movements throughout Europe follows another overreach made in the first days of his new post, when he took to Twitter to warn German companies involved in business with Iran to "wind down operations immediately" following Trump's withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal.
The tweet prompted Wolfgang Ischinger, a former German ambassador to the U.S., to advise Grenell on the basics of international diplomacy.
Ric: my advice, after a long ambassadorial career: explain your own country’s policies, and lobby the host country - but never tell the host country what to do, if you want to stay out of trouble. Germans are eager to listen, but they will resent instructions.
— Wolfgang Ischinger (@ischinger) May 9, 2018