“None of his predecessors intervened in domestic politics or created controversy in such a way,” says Stefan Liebich, a member of the German parliament’s foreign affairs committee from the left-wing political party Die Linke. “It’s very, very unusual, and I was surprised and disconcerted by it.” (Grenell, through a press officer at the U.S. Embassy, declined to comment for this article.)
Liebich was far from alone in his assessment of Grenell’s first few weeks on the job. Martin Schulz, the former chancellor candidate and leader of the center-left Social Democrats, said Grenell sounded more “like a far-right colonial officer” than a diplomat in his Breitbart interview; Sahra Wagenknecht, leader of Liebich’s Die Linke, called for Grenell’s expulsion from Germany. Things started off rocky behind closed doors, too, as Grenell clashed with top Foreign Office officials in his first days in the job. The ambassador is, however, reportedly willing to learn from his mistakes and has since worked to tone down his Trumpian rhetoric: He apologized for the Breitbart controversy in a meeting with officials from the Foreign Office, according to someone with knowledge of the encounter, and has kept a lower profile in the weeks since the controversy. Even his Twitter feed has, it seems, been tamer in recent weeks. But here in Berlin, Germans are still watching him very closely.