It was time to get caught up on the mess with the British ambassador, now that the president was rage-tweeting about it. The second-day New York Times story quickly laid out how bad the crisis had gotten since coverage of the ambassador’s leaked cables had begun:
The British government scrambled to repair the damage, dispatching its trade minister to Washington to apologize to the president’s elder daughter, Ivanka Trump.
The British trade minister was being sent to apologize to…Ivanka Trump? What terrible thing had the ambassador written about the president’s elder daughter? Had he derided her for waltzing into top-level meetings despite a complete lack of knowledge or qualifications on any subject of consequence? Had he pointed out that, if not for the Manhattan district attorney’s commitment to protecting rich and powerful criminals from prosecution, she should have gone to prison for active real estate fraud, years ago? Had he, writing bluntly and confidentially, brought up the creepy father-daughter stuff?
But there was no other reference to Ivanka Trump in the story. Nor was there any mention of her at all in the prior story about the leaked cables. Maybe the Times was being delicate, and the offending material had been published in the sleazy British press, where the news of the leak originally appeared?
The earlier Times story linked back to the Mail on Sunday, which had broken the story. It was a typical Daily Mail near-endless scroll, less a story than a collage of story openings and captions and dropback boilerplate and SEO subheadings—but nowhere in it did “Ivanka” appear. There were two mentions of her husband, Jared Kushner, in a sidebar box where the ambassador speculated, “Dodgy Russian financiers may have bailed out the Trump and Kushner enterprises when both were at risk of bankruptcy in previous decades.” Yet the trade minister wasn’t being sent to apologize to Jared Kushner.
What the Mail presented as the truly offensive material, it seemed, was that the ambassador had described Donald Trump as “‘radiating insecurity’, filling his speeches with ‘false claims and invented statistics’ and achieving ‘almost nothing’ in terms of domestic policy,” and that he had assessed the future of the Trump administration:
“we really don’t believe that this Administration is going to become substantially more normal; less dysfunctional, less unpredictable, less faction-riven, less diplomatically clumsy and inept.”
This was neither controversial as a description nor wrong as a prediction. Anyone who isn’t financially or emotionally dependent on Donald Trump has been saying the same things, publicly, all along—and, to judge by the White House coverage, plenty of members of Trump’s circle have been willing to say them on background. The White House is a mess, run by an egomaniacal dummy. The president would respond well, the ambassador had written, to people “praising him” and to “simple” or “blunt” messages.
How many times have these facts been printed? Yet presented as forbidden knowledge—the leaked secrets of the British diplomatic corps—they were enough to send the president into a meltdown, so that the trade minister had to go mop up his feelings. Or, more precisely, his daughter’s feelings. Having been caught with its diplomat saying that the Trump administration was uniquely abnormal and dysfunctional, that it was less a government than a backstabbing royal court guided only by the irrational whims of one man, Britain could not reach out to the American ambassador or the Secretary of State to resolve the problem. Nothing would do but an official apology directly to the president’s inmost circle, his own daughter, and the removal of the offending party. Britain was so embarrassed by the ambassador’s advice, it had no choice but to follow it.