Dominic Raab criticises leaked comments over Donald Trump but defends Boris Johnson calling him ‘stupefyingly ignorant’
Former Brexit secretary Dominic Raab has been taken to task over his defence of Boris Johnson’s comments that Donald Trump is “stupifyingly ignorant” after he criticised British ambassador Sir Kim Darroch’s leaked comments about the President’s “inept” administration.
Speaking on the BBC’s Newsnight programme, Mr Raab, who is backing Mr Johnson in the Conservative leadership contest, labelled Sir Kim’s comments as “wrong” and claimed diplomatic cables should not include personalised remarks. He then defended Mr Johnson’s assessment of the President, as the politician had made the comments while “he was our Mayor of London”.
The leaked diplomatic cables written by Sir Kim, in which he labelled the Trump administration as “uniquely dysfunctional” and “inept”, have sparked a row between the UK and America. The government has launched a formal investigation into the leak, while President Trump has responded by criticising Theresa May over her handling of Brexit and calling Sir Kim a “pompous fool” in a series of tweets. The White House has also frozen Sir Kim out of meetings with US officials since the leak.
Speaking on Newsnight on Tuesday night, Mr Raab criticised Sir Kim’s remarks about the Trump administration, and said that when he read and drafted diplomatic cables he would “try to avoid personalised stuff”.
Host Emily Maitlis then told challenged him over Mr Johnson’s personalised comments about the President, and said: “Boris Johnson, as you well know, called Donald Trump ‘stupefyingly ignorant, quite stupefyingly ignorant’ and ‘unfit to hold the office of President’ when he was Mayor.
“Are you going to break that news to Donald Trump?”
Mr Raab defended the Tory leadership hopeful’s comments by stating that he “wasn’t our ambassador in Washington dealing with the American government” when he made them.
Ms Maitlis replied: “He was our Mayor of London.”
Mr Johnson made the comments in December 2015, after Mr Trump had claimed while on the Presidential campaign trail that London had “no go” zones that even the police would not enter.
Mr Johnson, who was Mayor of London at the time, hit back at the remarks, and said: “When Donald Trump says that there are parts of London that are no-go areas, I think he’s betraying a quite stupefying ignorance that makes him, frankly, unfit to hold the office of President of the United States.”
But Mr Raab responded to Ms Maitlis by pointing to the current spat between Mr Trump and now Mayor of London Sadiq Khan.
He claimed Mr Khan “has been doing the same”.
“I think it’s slightly different if you’re the key man in Washington DC,” he added.
But Ms Maitlis countered that Sir Kim had made the comments in a private memo to the Goverment.
Mr Raab said: “Look, I think the reaction was wrong, but I also can see why when this kind of spat spirals, you want to dial it down.”
When Mr Johnson was asked on Tuesday night about how he would handle the situation with Sir Kim during the televised debate between himself and Jeremy Hunt, he refused to say whether he would keep the ambassador on or not.
Mr Hunt instead said he would keep the diplomat in his post until the end of his four-year term.