It’s been five months since President Trump first nominated Richard Grenell to be the United States’ ambassador to Germany, and yet Grenell is still waiting for the Senate to confirm him so he can start his job.
Refusing to confirm Grenell not only impedes America’s foreign policy interests—Germany is one of America’s most important allies—but impedes historical progress as well: if confirmed, Grenell would be the highest-ranking openly gay diplomat in American history.
The absence of American diplomatic leadership in Berlin is painfully obvious in light of two recent developments, Grenell’s backers say.
The New York Times reported earlier this week that American and Russian spies tried to negotiate a deal last year for damaging information on President Trump that the Russians claimed to have, although they provided no evidence. The CIA’s Berlin station ran the secret negotiations, which according to the Times report extended into early this year — while Grenell’s nomination was sitting before the Senate.
The CIA station chief in Berlin typically reports to the American ambassador to Germany — but for that to happen, there has to actually be an American ambassador to Germany. As details of the reported operation surface months after the fact, America still has no ambassador in Germany, whose citizens are no fans of American clandestine operations in their country.
Additionally, German Chancellor Angela Merkel is facing challenges to her leadership within her Christian Democratic Union party after making steep concessions with a center-left party in order to form a governing coalition. Even as Merkel’s leadership looks shaky, America’s top diplomatic post in Germany remains empty.
Republican writer and commentator Hugh Hewitt on Sunday decried that America has no ambassador in Berlin to help the U.S. navigate the political chaos in Germany, which Hewitt described on Twitter as “a full-blown meltdown.”
“It is an astonishing indifference to national security on the part of Dems holding up Grenell (and other ambassadors such as, I think, Turkey),” Hewitt said of Grenell’s stalled nomination in an email to The Daily Caller.
“Germany is the most important non-nuclear country in the world, a lynchpin in international counter-terror efforts, the key to NATO etc. and we don’t have an Ambassador because Dems don’t want President Trump to have named the highest-ranking openly gay man in American diplomatic history,” Hewitt said.
Current Senate rules allow any one senator to hold up a nominee who makes it past the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. If any senator objects to a nomination, then it must go before the full Senate for 30 hours of debate and a vote.
Grenell has made it past the committee stage twice. The first time was in November, but Senate Democrats blocked his nomination, forcing it before the full Senate. Grenell didn’t make it before the full Senate before the end of 2017, sending his nomination back to the White House. Grenell passed the committee stage a second time in January, but is once again languishing before the full Senate.
Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has moved swiftly in bringing judicial nominations — who have lifetime appointments — to the Senate floor, but less so with ambassadorial nominations. McConnell spokesperson David Popp told TheDC he couldn’t say when Grenell’s nomination will go before the full Senate and said that the Senate will be focused on immigration this upcoming week.
Democratic Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy indicated in December that he was willing to slow down Grenell’s nomination but has since backtracked on that statement. Murphy spokesman Chris Harris told TheDC that the senator “will not object” to Grenell’s confirmation when it comes up again, but that still leaves 48 other Democrats capable of blocking his confirmation. Harris blamed Republican leadership for taking so long to bring Grenell’s nomination to the Senate, rather than the Democrats intent on dragging out the process.
A majority of Democrats on the foreign relations committee voted against Grenell both times, which makes it almost certain that the full Senate will have to vote on his confirmation — unless the Democrats decide to stand down and let Grenell pass through the Senate without objection.
“It should be of interest to every major paper and digging into who has been passed the hold from—I think but can’t be sure—Murphy,” Hewitt said.
Some Republicans, including Hewitt, have called on McConnell to change Senate rules to speed up the confirmation process. So far, McConnell has given no indication that he will do so.
Grenell and the White House both declined to comment for this story.
Log Cabin Republicans, which represents LGBT conservatives, slammed the Senate for Grenell’s stalled nomination earlier this month.
“It is simply unconscionable that [Grenell] hasn’t been brought up for a vote in the United States Senate to confirm him as our country’s Ambassador to Germany,” the group said, urging its followers to call McConnell’s office and demand a vote.
It is simply unconscionable that @RichardGrenell hasn’t been brought up for a vote in the United States Senate to confirm him as our country’s Ambassador to Germany.
Call @SenateMajLdr Mitch McConnell today and tell him: (202) 224-2541
— LogCabinRepublicans (@LogCabinGOP) February 8, 2018
Grenell’s stalled confirmation is also grating on some Germans, who say the absence in the American embassy is damaging America’s relationship with one of its strongest allies.
Bild, a prominent German newspaper, ran an editorial last month shaming the Senate for the stalled confirmation. “America needs a voice in Germany,” wrote Bild deputy editor-in-chief Florian von Heintze, who praised Grenell’s foreign policy expertise.
“America needs a voice in Germany,” von Heintze argued. “And Germany needs a strong US ambassador. That should be the message of all German politicians to their friends and colleagues in the USA.”
Uwe Becker, a prominent member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party, told Fox News last month that Grenell’s stalled confirmation reflects poorly upon the United States.
“Richard Grenell has a strong and convincing background in foreign policy with his long-term experience at the United Nations and in other positions,” Becker said.
“Not having a serving American ambassador under the American flag beside the Brandenburg Gate is not a good symbol for the deep friendship that we have with the United States.”