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The U.K's ambassador to the U.S., Kim Darroch, has resigned following the leak of secret cables in which he described the President Donald Trump administration as "uniquely dysfunctional" and "inept."
Extracts of the leaked cables were published by a U.K. newspaper on Sunday, prompting a row with the U.S. over Darroch's comments about Trump and the White House.
Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May had defended Darroch, saying she had "full faith" in him, but the ambassador said in a statement that the "current situation is making it impossible for me to carry out my role."
In his resignation statement Wednesday, experienced diplomat Darroch said that he wanted to put an end to speculation over the remainder of his term as ambassador: "Although my posting is not due to end until the end of this year, I believe in the current circumstances the responsible course is to allow the appointment of a new ambassador," he said.
Leaked memos published by the Mail on Sunday newspaper contained the ambassador's characterizations of the U.S. administration that were less than flattering. Perhaps most sensitive of all his remarks was his comment that Trump's White House was "inept." Darroch also reportedly said that media reports of "vicious infighting and chaos" inside the White House were "mostly true," and that Trump's career could end in "disgrace."
He also noted Trump's ability to bounce back from controversy, however. Commenting on how best to talk to the U.S. president, Darroch had told officials in London that "you need to make your points simple, even blunt."
Trump was quick to react to the leaked comments on Monday, saying that the ambassador was not well thought of in the U.S. He commented on Twitter on Tuesday too, repeating that the U.S. "will no longer deal with him." Trump went further in his criticism later on Tuesday, calling Darroch a "very stupid guy."
The U.K. Foreign Office defended Darroch's comments on Monday, saying the British public expected its diplomats to provide the U.K. government with "honest, unvarnished assessment of the politics in their country" and that "we pay them to be candid."
The U.K.'s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt also hit back, responding to Trump's remarks by tweeting: "Friends speak frankly so I will: these comments are disrespectful and wrong to our prime minister and my country."
The controversy over the leak has shaken what Britain characterizes as its "special relationship" with the U.S., but Darroch said that support from both the U.S. and U.K. in recent days had "brought home to me the depth of friendship and close ties between our two countries."
Amid calls for an investigation into how the diplomatic cables and memos were leaked, Darroch defended the "professionalism and integrity of the British civil service" saying it was "the envy of the world."
Questions over Darroch's ability to remain in the post were raised in a televised debate between the forerunners in a leadership race to become Britain's next prime minister. Hunt said he would support Darroch if he wanted to remain in his post until it ended. Boris Johnson, the former foreign secretary, was more ambivalent.
Responding to the resignation, Hunt said on Twitter Wednesday that he was "deeply saddened" by the announcement.