In a surprise statement, former President Donald Trump announced today that he sent an “envoy ambassador” to the Kosovo-Serbia border to conduct his own diplomacy, a potentially illegal move.
Ric Grenell, the out former U.S. Ambassador to Germany, was tapped to represent the former administration. He served as a special presidential envoy for Trump during the countries’ peace talks.
While Grenell was serving as Trump’s eyes and ears in the region, he helped to topple the pro-American government of Kosovo in a move that former Prime Minister Albin Kurti called “a parliamentary coup d’etat” supported by Grenell. Grenell forced Kurti to give Serbia huge concessions in a duplicitous effort to give Trump a needed policy win. Kosovo’s Parliament voted Kurti out of office afterward and residents protested in the streets.
Grenell has been repeatedly critical of the Biden administration’s policies concerning the Balkan states.
“The great people of Serbia and Kosovo have overcome tremendous obstacles in their pursuit of economic normalization. The agreements my administration brokered are historic and should not be abandoned, many lives are at stake,” Trump wrote Thursday. “Today, my envoy ambassador Ric Grenell visited the Kosovo-Serbia border to highlight this important agreement.”
Wall Street Journal reporter Vivian Salama summed it up aptly.
“The phrasing here is quite fascinating since, for one, a former president shouldn’t have an active envoy,” she tweeted with a copy of Trump’s announcement. “In reality, I suspect Grenell’s visit is more a courtesy than anything serious.”
The Logan Act prevents unauthorized American citizens from negotiating with foreign countries having a dispute with the United States. It is a felony offense.
Others pointed out that Trump’s announcement just didn’t make much sense.
“Lots of people skipping to the ‘but norms!’ discussion and ignoring that ‘envoy ambassador’ is a hilarious nonsense phrase, like ‘police cop’ or ‘music singer’,” Washington Post reporter David Weigel tweeted. “‘Envoy ambassador’ is what a Will Ferrell character panics and says his job is in a movie were he’s playing a spy and gets caught.”
While Trump’s bombastic title for Grenell is nonsensical, the duo has a history of making grandiose claims together.
While serving as ambassador, Grenell claimed he was launching an initiative to decriminalize homosexuality around the world at Trump’s request. When reporters asked Trump about it, he didn’t know anything about it. Grenell was loathed and actively avoided by other diplomats and German government officials while serving.
Grenell served as the acting Director of National Intelligence (DNI) in former President Donald Trump’s administration for about two months. The DNI is a “Cabinet-level” position, but it’s not a Cabinet secretary, it’s not the head of an executive department, and it’s not in the Presidential Line of Succession. Grenell only held the seat until the actual DNI was confirmed by the Senate and even continued to serve as ambassador at the same time.
But since he was appointed to hold the seat temporarily, Grenell and Trump have touted him as a historic first – the “first gay Cabinet member” – in an effort to burnish his reputation. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg is the first actual out Cabinet member and was confirmed by the Senate to hold the position. Grenell didn’t need to be confirmed to hold the seat temporarily.
Grenell resigned as ambassador after serving as acting DNI. Since leaving the administration, he has returned to trolling “liberals” and journalists on social media. His confirmation as ambassador was held up by concerns over his conduct on Twitter.
He recently accepted a job with the conservative Christian legal organization American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ) as a Special Advisor for National Security and Foreign Policy. The ACLJ was founded by the anti-LGBTQ extremist and televangelist Pat Robertson in 1990 to advance “universal, God-given and inalienable rights.”
Earlier this week, Grenell joined the Log Cabin Republicans in announcing a small initiative with the GOP to encourage LGBTQ Americans to vote against their own interests and become Republicans. Evangelical leaders and Republican politicians have condemned RNC chair Ronna McDaniel for working with Grenell and the group to advance diversity in the party.
"Envoy ambassador" is what a Will Ferrell character panics and says his job is in a movie where he's playing a spy and gets caught.
— David Weigel (@daveweigel) November 11, 2021
Envoy Ambassador is just above Platinum Tier member
But, yes, a former president is dispatching former appointees to foreign countries to engage in foreign policy. https://t.co/aZdymVWoVm
— Tom Nichols (@RadioFreeTom) November 11, 2021
The kind where you need a PIN number?
— Willow Twicevaxxed Extreme Masked (@whovingh) November 11, 2021
The phrasing here is quite fascinating since, for one, a former president shouldn't have an active envoy (unless that envoy reports to the new president, as was the case w/Zal Khalilzad, for example). In reality, I suspect Grenell's visit is more a courtesy than anything serious. pic.twitter.com/2WY4NE0Iwd
— Vivian Salama (@vmsalama) November 11, 2021