Germany has questions for the US ambassador who plans to “empower” local conservatives

Richard Grenell was sworn in on May 8.
Richard Grenell was sworn in on May 8.
Image: EPA-EFE/ Felipe Trueba
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Richard Grenell, the new US ambassador to Germany, has been in the job for less than a month, but he has already effectively declared that he’s willing to obliterate the diplomat line by directly meddling in national and European politics. And now Berlin wants a word with him.

In an interview with right-wing website Breitbart, Grenell pledged to “empower” anti-establishment conservatives, slammed Germany’s military, and said he’d work with German politicians who are “concerned about migration.”

“I absolutely want to empower other conservatives throughout Europe, other leaders,” he said in the interview, adding that it was “an exciting time” for him.

“There is a groundswell of conservative policies that are taking hold because of the failed policies of the left. That’s a very powerful moment when you can grasp the ability to see past the group-think of a very small elitist crowd telling you have no chance to win or you’ll never win.”

The Trump loyalist signaled out right-wing Austrian chancellor Sebastian Kurz for praise: “I think Sebastian Kurz is a rock star.” Kurz, who is just 31 years old, leads Austria’s nationalist government in a coalition between his conservative People’s Party and the far-right Freedom party.

A German foreign ministery spokesperson told AFP that the ambassador would be asked to clarify his comments about “empowering” conservatives, and that foreign office political director Andreas Michaelis would bring it up during his meeting with Grenell on Thursday.

Thorsten Schäfer-Gümbel, leader of the SPD party in Hessen, tweeted (in German) that “European citizens don’t need a Trump vassal to tell them who to vote for. A US ambassador who meddles in the democratic process to such a degree is simply misplaced.”

Lars Klingbeil, general secretary of the Social Democrats, issued a rebuke too:

Democratic senator Chris Murphy waded in, writing on Twitter: “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.”