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Legal Matters

Germany Asks US Envoy to Explain Comment on ‘Empowering’ Conservatives

Germany is asking the new U.S. ambassador to Berlin, an outspoken supporter of President Donald Trump, for an explanation of his comment that he wants to "empower" European conservatives.

The German Foreign Ministry says it plans to question Ambassador Richard Grenell when he makes his inaugural visit to the ministry on Wednesday, asking him to "explain how he wants his statements to be understood.''

On Sunday, the Breitbart.com website, a right-wing U.S. political news site, quoted Grenell as saying, "I absolutely want to empower other conservatives throughout Europe, other leaders."

Grenell, who took his post in Berlin less than a month ago, drew criticism last month for a Twitter comment saying German companies should stop doing business in Iran after Trump withdrew the United States from the 2015 international accord to restrain Tehran's nuclear weapons development in exchange for lifting sanctions that had hobbled the Iranian economy.

Conflict over Grenell's comments comes at a time when Germany and two other U.S. allies in Europe, Britain and France, have objected to Trump's withdrawal from the Iran pact and also have rebuked the U.S. leader for imposing new tariffs on steel and aluminum exports to the United States.

Breitbart London quoted Grenell as saying he was excited about a "European groundswell of conservative policies" that had come about because of "the failed policies of the left." He said, "The election of Donald Trump has empowered individuals and people to say that they can't just allow the political class to determine before an election takes place who's going to win and who should run."

Not part of job description

Some German lawmakers objected to the 51-year-old Grenell's comments as unusually interventionist for a diplomat representing another country in a foreign land.

"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 [sic] country," Lars Klingbeil, general secretary of the Social Democrats, told Grenell.

Social Democratic lawmaker Thorsten Schaefer-Guembel tweeted, "European citizens don't need a Trump vassal to tell them who to vote for."

Belgian Guy Verhofstadt, who heads the European Parliament's liberal group, said, "We have to defend Europe against Trump. It's not up to his ambassador to influence our elections and steer our society. We respect the sovereignty of the U.S., they have to respect ours."

Verhofstadt added the hashtag "#GrenellRaus" to his Twitter comment, German for "Get Grenell out."

Later, Grenell said it was "ridiculous" that he would endorse European candidates or parties. But he said, "I stand by my comments that we are experiencing an awakening from the silent majority - those who reject the elites and their bubble. Led by Trump."

Source: Voice of America