A formal inquiry will take place into the leak of sensitive diplomatic memos detailing the “uniquely dysfunctional” and “inept” White House under Donald Trump.
The documents reveal UK ambassador to the US Sir Kim Darroch’s assessments of the Trump administration from 2017 to the present – and could prove highly embarrassing for the Foreign Office.
It is not yet known who leaked the candid comments.
The files – details of which were revealed exclusively by the Mail on Sunday over the weekend – has triggered a flurry of speculation about who disclosed the sensitive information, while Sir Kim has been the subject of both praise and criticism.
Here is what you need to know.
What Do The Documents Say?
In the cache of documents, Sir Kim gives a scathing assessment of the White House: “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.”
He questioned whether the White House “will ever look competent”.
The diplomatic memos suggest that in order to communicate with the president “you need to make your points simple, even blunt”.
Following Trump’s state visit to the UK in June, Sir Kim warned that although the president had been “dazzled” by the pomp and ceremony of the trip, his administration would remain self-interested and “this is still the land of America First”.
In a particularly sensitive leak, a 2017 letter to the National Security Adviser Sir Mark Sedwill – sent 150 days into the Trump administration – laid bare the trouble in the White House.
Media reports of “vicious infighting and chaos” were “mostly true” despite the president’s attempts to brush them off.
In one of the most recent documents, Sir Kim refers to “incoherent, chaotic” US policy on Iran and questions Trump’s publicly stated reason for calling off a retaliatory air strike against Tehran following the downing of an American drone.
What Has The Response Been?
The leak elicited a retaliatory tone from Trump.
Hitting back, the US president told reporters on Sunday: “The ambassador has not served the UK well, I can tell you that.
“We are not big fans of that man and he has not served the UK well. So I can understand it, and I can say things about him but I won’t bother.”
Justice Secretary David Gauke, said: “I think it’s very important that ambassadors give honest, unvarnished advice to their country.
“And it is disgraceful that it’s been leaked.”
Defending Sir Kim, Gauke told BBC1’s Andrew Marr Show: “I think ambassadors need to be able to make their honest assessment of the situation and report back to London. And that is what he’s done.”
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said the comments were “personal opinions” and “not the opinions of the British Government”.
“It’s really important to say that the ambassador was doing his job as an ambassador which is to give frank reports and personal opinions about what’s happening in the country where he works, and that’s his job to send back those reports but they are personal opinions, not the opinions of the British Government, not my opinion,” he said.
“And we continue to think that under President Trump the United States administration is both highly effective and the best possible friend of Britain on the international stage.”
“I think it’s very important that ambassadors give honest, unvarnished advice to their country”
International Trade Secretary Liam Fox told the BBC: “It’s not a problem with the ambassador. This a problem with the ethics of the individual who carried out this particular leak,” adding that Sir Kim was held in high regard.
Before batting off speculation that he could replace Sir Kim, Farage tweeted on Sunday: “Kim Darroch is totally unsuitable for the job and the sooner he is gone the better”.
What Could The Repercussions Be?
Speaking on Monday, Hunt warned there will be “serious consequences” for whoever leaked the secret diplomatic cables.
Meanwhile, Fox expressed concern the leaks could damage the UK’s relationship with Washington after President Trump made clear his displeasure with Britain’s chief envoy to America.
Tom Tugendhat MP, Chairman of the foreign affairs committee, said the leak was “deeply damaging” and should be investigated by police, in addition to the Foreign Office investigation.
There are also concerns among cabinet minister that, if he became Prime Minister, Boris Johnson could appoint Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage to replace Darroch, the Financial Times reported.
But on Monday, Farage told the Today programme that he was not the “right man” for the job.
Meanwhile, Number 10 has insisted there is “no vacancy” and praised Sir Kim for being an “excellent ambassador”.
Who Is Kim Darroch?
Sir Kim is considered something of a veteran in the diplomatic arena, with a career spanning three decades.
Prior to taking on the role of UK ambassador to the US in January 2016, the 65-year-old served as national security adviser to former prime minister David Cameron.
He was secretary of the National Security Council until September 2015 and led on issues such as the rise of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, Russian aggression in Ukraine, the nuclear threat from Iran and the collapse of government authority in Libya.
Between 2007 and 2011 he served in Brussels as the UK Permanent Representative to the European Union, representing UK interests in areas such as the aftermath of the financial crisis and the issues around European integration.
He joined the diplomatic service in 1977 after graduating from Durham University with a degree in zoology.