| Richard Grenell |
|Alma mater||Evangel University, Harvard University/John F. Kennedy School of Government|
Richard Allen Grenell is an American diplomat, civil servant and media consultant. A member of the Republican Party, he served as the U.S. Ambassador to Germany from 2018 to 2020 and briefly as Acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) in the Trump Cabinet in 2020.
UN Minister Counselor
In 2001, Grenell was appointed by President George W. Bush as Director of Communications and Public Diplomacy for the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York (formally, his title was Minister Counselor). Working in that role until 2008, Grenell advised four different U.S. Ambassadors. During his tenure, Grenell promulgated U.S. official position and strategy on such issues as the War on Terror, global peacekeeping operations, nuclear proliferation, and the UN Oil for Food corruption scandal.
Consulting, media, and campaign work (2009–2017)
In 2009, Grenell founded Capitol Media Partners, an international strategic media and public affairs consultancy with offices in Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York, and Washington, D.C. Closely connected, he was also under contract as a Fox News contributor, commenting on foreign affairs and the media. Presumably under contract from employers, he wrote for The Wall Street Journal, CBS News, CNN, Politico, Huffington Post, The Washington Times,and Al Jazeera. In 2012, CNN ranked Grenell as one of the top five Republican consultants in social media, and Time magazine named Grenell as one of the Top 10 Political Twitter Feeds of 2014.
Grenell was a foreign policy spokesperson for Republican candidate Mitt Romney during his 2012 presidential campaign. Grenell is the first openly gay person to work as a spokesperson for a Republican presidential candidate.
In 2016, Grenell's consulting firm accepted more than $100,000 from the Magyar Foundation of North America to provide public relations support for the Hungarian government of Viktor Orbán. Grenell did not disclose this payment under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) prior to his work in the Trump administration.
Ambassador to Germany
In September 2017, President Donald Trump nominated Grenell to become the United States Ambassador to Germany. After a significant delay, the Senate confirmed Grenell 56–42 on April 26, 2018. Grenell was also under consideration for the posts of U.S. Ambassador to NATO and United States Ambassador to the United Nations.
Grenell presented his credentials to the President of Germany on May 8, 2018. Within hours of taking office, Grenell offended diplomats and business leaders when he tweeted that “German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately.” The tweet was widely perceived as a threat, with the Foreign Minister of Luxembourg, Jean Asselborn, commenting that "This man was accredited as ambassador only yesterday. To give German businesses such orders … that’s just not how you can treat your allies.” The leader of Germany's Social Democratic Party stated that Grenell "does appear to need some tutoring" in the "fine art of diplomacy", while the Left Party urged the Merkel government to summon Grenell to explain his comments.
Grenell stirred controversy in June 2018 by telling Breitbart News, "I absolutely want to empower other conservatives throughout Europe, other leaders." This comment was described as a breach of diplomatic protocol and a breach of Article 14 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations, which requires ambassadors to be politically neutral in the domestic politics of the countries where they serve. Prominent German politicians called for Grenell's dismissal. Martin Schulz, former leader of the Social Democratic Party of Germany, said, "What this man is doing is unheard of in international diplomacy. If a German ambassador were to say in Washington that he is there to boost the Democrats, he would have been kicked out immediately."
In the fall of 2018, Grenell played a key diplomatic role in planning the arrest of Julian Assange by providing backchannel assurances to Ecuador that Assange would not face the death penalty in the United States.
In January 2019, Grenell told Handelsblatt that European companies participating in the construction of the Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline are "always in danger, because sanctions are always possible". The U.S. has long opposed the Russian-backed Nord Stream 2, a pipeline for delivering natural gas from Russia to Germany. Grenell also threatened to sanction German companies involved in the construction of the Nord Stream 2.
Der Spiegel published a profile of Grenell on January 11, 2019, using interviews with 30 “American and German diplomats, cabinet members, lawmakers, high-ranking officials, lobbyists and think tank experts". The magazine wrote that "almost all of these sources paint an unflattering portrait of the ambassador, one remarkably similar to Donald Trump, the man who sent him to Berlin. A majority of them describe Grenell as a vain, narcissistic person who dishes out aggressively, but can barely handle criticism." The profile claimed that Grenell was politically isolated in Berlin because of his association with the far-right Alternative for Germany Party, causing the leaders of the mainstream German parties—including the Chancellor herself—to avoid contact with him; while Grenell had pressed German parliamentarians to invite him to their districts, most had declined. The sources claimed that Grenell knew little "about Germany and Europe, that he ignores most of the dossiers his colleagues at the embassy write for him, and that his knowledge of the subject matter is superficial".
In March 2019, Wolfgang Kubicki, Vice President of the Bundestag and deputy chairman of the Free Democratic Party, called for Grenell to be expelled from Germany. Kubicki said, "Any U.S. diplomat who acts like a high commissioner of an occupying power must learn that our tolerance also knows its limits."
Acting Director of National Intelligence
As an acting director, Grenell was not subject to Senate confirmation. Although Trump indicated he would be appointing a new U.S. Ambassador to Germany, Grenell kept this position while also serving in his new role,and Grenell indicated he did not expect to take the Director of National Intelligence job on a permanent basis.
On February 28, 2020, Trump announced the nomination of U.S. Rep. John Ratcliffe to the post of Director of National Intelligence. The nomination allowed Grenell to stay on as acting director pending Ratcliffe's confirmation. With Ratcliffe's confirmation and installation, Grenell's tenure as acting Director ended on May 26, 2020.