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State Dept. defends ambassador to Germany after controversial remarks

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The State Department defended U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell on Tuesday after he stoked controversy in Germany by saying he wanted to “empower” conservatives overseas.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told reporters in a press briefing that Grenell “was merely highlighting that there are some parties and candidates in Europe who are doing well right now.”

“We’re not supporting any political party. That’s not what we do,” Nauert clarified. “We support democracy, we support countries figuring out for themselves who they want to vote in for office.”

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Grenell’s comments, made in an interview with the conservative website Breitbart News, were highly unusual as American diplomats rarely, if ever, weigh in on the domestic politics of the countries where they are posted.

The comments drew a furious response from many Europeans and prompted the German Foreign Ministry to request a clarification of his remarks.

“What this man is doing, is unheard of in international diplomacy,” Martin Schulz, the former head of Germany’s Social Democratic Party, told national news agency DPA. “If a German ambassador were to say in Washington that he is there to boost the Democrats, he would have been kicked out immediately.”

Grenell, a former United Nations spokesman and Fox News contributor who took office last month, also decried, during the Breitbart interview, what he called the “failed policies of the left,” and he credited President Trump with empowering people across the world to take on the “political class.”

The criticism of Grenell’s remarks came as the U.S. and Germany find themselves at odds on a number of fronts, including Trump’s decision to withdraw from the multination Iran nuclear deal and levy stiff tariffs on steel and aluminum imports from Europe and around the world.

Tags conservatives Donald Trump European Union Germany Richard Grenell State Department

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