Richard Grenell to step down as US ambassador to Germany

Richard Grenell is to step down as US ambassador to Germany after a contentious tenure in which relations soured between the Trump administration and Berlin over everything from Iran and trade to climate change and defence.

Mr Grenell, who had been acting director of national intelligence since February as well as America’s top diplomat to Germany, implicitly confirmed that he would leave the role on Twitter on Sunday following reports in the German media about his departure.

“Thank you senator,” Mr Grenell wrote to Marsha Blackburn, a Republican lawmaker from Tennessee, after she linked to a Fox News report about his exit, thanked him for his “service to our nation” and called him a “true patriot”.

“You make a big mistake if you think the American pressure is off. You don’t know Americans,” Mr Grenell also wrote on Sunday, retweeting a post from Noah Barkin, a fellow at the German Marshall Fund, who said that Germany would breathe a “sigh of relief” at his departure.

Mr Grenell will leave his temporary DNI position after John Ratcliffe’s confirmation as his permanent replacement last week by the Senate. A former longtime spokesperson for the US mission to the UN, Mr Grenell had been among the most outspoken defenders of Mr Trump’s policies in the US diplomatic corps, regularly rankling his German hosts.

Shortly after taking the job in 2018, Mr Grenell caused an outcry in Berlin after warning that German companies should immediately leave Iran following the US withdrawal from the nuclear deal or face sanctions.

In that period, Mr Grenell was asked by the German government to explain comments made to Breitbart, the rightwing US website, in which he said he aimed to “empower other conservatives throughout Europe”. Some critics said that suggested a US campaign to force political change on the continent.

More recently, Mr Grenell clashed with German politicians and officials over their ties with China, at a time when the US was adopting a more confrontational stance and threatening countries with diminished intelligence co-operation unless they banned Huawei, the Chinese telecommunications group, from their 5G networks.

Mr Grenell had also criticised Berlin for not boosting its defence spending and its championing of the Nordstream 2 pipeline, which delivers Russian gas to northern Europe.

The state department declined to comment.

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