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Menendez on Opposition to Richard Grenell’s Nomination to be Ambassador to Germany

WASHINGTON - U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senator Foreign Relations Committee, delivered the below remarks on the Senate Floor on his vote against the nomination of Richard Grenell to become U.S. Ambassador to Germany.


His speech, as prepared for delivery, follows:

“M. President, we are considering today the nomination of Richard Grenell to be our Ambassador to Germany. I opposed Mr. Grenell’s nomination in committee and I will again oppose his confirmation today.

If confirmed, Mr. Grenell will assume the post at a time of strain in the bilateral relationship since the election of President Trump, who has disagreed with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on several key issues.  Germany is one of our most critical partners and a key ally in upholding the post-World War II order responsible for securing peace and prosperity.

Germany is a key NATO ally, serving with distinction and sacrifice in Afghanistan. Germany also serves on the frontlines of Europe against an aggressive Russia that is actively seeking to destabilize German democracy in the same way it does American democracy.  And Germany showed great humanity in accepting so many migrants when that crisis escalated in 2015.  This is a close ally for our security, but more importantly an ally in championing the values that we hold dear as a country.  

It would have been my hope and desire that for such an important ally as Germany, the President would have put forth a serious, credible, experienced diplomat who could strengthen our relationship with Germany.

Instead, President Trump nominated Mr. Grenell.  In a few moments I will read things that Mr. Grenell has tweeted in the past, and that he continues to tweet, even as his nomination has been pending before this body. 

I do not savor having to read these tweets, because frankly they are not suitable things to have to say on the floor of the Senate. 

But since the Majority Leader and the President have prioritized this nominee, and the vote will occur in a few minutes, the American people deserve to know exactly who the Trump Administration wants to represent the United States to our great friend and ally, Germany.  And so I will read a selection of Mr. Grenell’s tweets for the record:

• ‘did you notice that while Michelle Obama is working out on the BiggestLoser she is sweating on the East Room’s carpet?’

• Rachel Maddow should ‘take a breath and put on a necklace.’

• Also about Callista Gingrich: ‘Callista stands there like she is wife #1’

This is just a selection.  I chose not to read the one I considered the most insulting out of respect for this body. 

M. President, these are not the words of a child or a teenager who does not yet understand the power of words.  These are thewords of a grown adult who had previously been a public face ofthe Bush Administration for 8 years.

Mr. Grenell’s derogatory comments about women are simply unacceptable for anyone to make in public, let alone a diplomat.  And I would go even further: Not only do these tweets show bad judgement, they show us who Mr. Grenell really is and how comfortable he is publicly contributing his own brand of toxic political discourse.   

Will he do such things if he is confirmed and goes to Germany?  Will he insult, via his Twitter account, the female Chancellor of Germany?  I don’t know.  I hope not.

In the Committee process of considering his nomination, Mr. Grenell was asked about these tweets and other comments he has made…and you know what he said?  He assured us that he understood there was a difference between being a private citizen and being a public figure and that he would never say or tweet such things as a public figure.

So imagine our surprise when Mr. Grenell started tweeting again, after he had been voted out of Committee.  Astonishingly, he retweeted a Wikileaks tweet which included documents stolen by Russian intelligence. 

The other nominee before us today, CIA Director Mike Pompeo,has called Wikileaks a ‘non-state hostile intelligence service’ that will ‘take down America any way they can and find any willing partner to achieve that end.’ 

So imagine that.  Amidst all the controversy about the connection between Wikileaks and Russia and their interference in our 2016 election, and while under consideration for an Ambassadorship by this body—Mr. Grenell feels perfectly comfortable tweeting out emails stolen by Russian intelligence to interfere in our democratic process.  Basically doing the work of Russian intelligence.

M. President, these are not the actions of a person with anything close to good judgement.  These are not the actions of a diplomat. I urge my colleagues to reject sending Mr. Grenell to Germany as U.S. Ambassador.

With that, M. President, I yield the floor.”