Boris Johnson — the British politician who will most likely become prime minister later this month — denied on Thursday that he had anything to do with the resignation of U.K. Ambassador to the U.S. Kim Darroch.
Darroch resigned on Wednesday after it became public knowledge that he disparaged the Trump administration as “diplomatically clumsy and inept.”
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Politicians in the United Kingdom — both within the government and in opposition parties — have accused Johnson, of the Conservative Party, of not defending Darroch when Trump attacked.
“This is a direct challenge to a sovereign nation,” Conservative lawmaker Tom Tugendhat, who heads Parliament’s foreign affairs committee, said. He added that Britain “shouldn’t be bullied.”
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Johnson told The Sun he “can’t believe” why people are placing blame on him.
“It seems bizarre to me. I’m a great supporter of Kim’s. I worked very well with him for years,” Johnson said. “I spoke to him just now to offer my good wishes. I think that he’s done a superb job.”
After the memos about his administration were leaked, Trump described Darroch as ineffective and said: “he has not served the U.K. well.”
“I do not know the Ambassador, but he is not liked or well … thought of within the U.S. We will no longer deal with him,” Trump tweeted.
Politicians including Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt — Johnson’s rival for the job as prime minister — criticized Trump and defended Darroch. Johnson, however, stressed his good relations with the White House and the importance of the trans-Atlantic relationship.
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Darroch resigned hours after Johnson made the comments — which conservative lawmaker Nicholas Soames said was Johnson “[hanging] Kim out to dry.”
Johnson on Thursday backed Trump’s tweets about outgoing Prime Minister Theresa May, in which he criticized her handling of Brexit.
“I can’t dissent from that,” he told Politico Europe, reportedly chuckling. “When it comes to the context of what the president has said about the Brexit deal, I find it hard to disagree.”
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Johnson is the strong favorite to win a Conservative leadership contest and succeed May as party leader and prime minister. He is widely expected to defeat Hunt in a ballot of about 160,000 party members. The winner will be announced on July 23.
May could try to replace Darroch in the two weeks she has left, but she is unlikely to have enough time.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.