The Senate Foreign Relations Committee's top Democrat is asking the State Department's inspector general to investigate President TrumpDonald John TrumpPence appears to mimic Trump in viral video Senior Trump aide and key player in North Korea summit eyeing White House exit: report McConnell: Senate won't pass bill reining in Trump's tariff authority MORE's envoy to Germany.
In a letter, Sen. Bob MenendezRobert (Bob) MenendezSchumer: Obama 'very amenable' to helping Senate Dems in midterms The Hill's Morning Report: Can Trump close the deal with North Korea? Senate must save itself by confirming Mike Pompeo MORE (D-N.J.) raised questions about Ambassador Richard Grenell's comments to the right-leaning Bretibart News, in which he reported said that he hoped to "empower other conservatives throughout Europe."
Grenell's reported comments were an unusual break from diplomatic norms. Ambassadors and other diplomats may lobby foreign governments over certain issues, but rarely chime in on the domestic politics of their host countries.
"U.S. ambassadors, whether political appointees or career officials, have long taken pains to avoid interfering in the politics of the countries in which they serve by trumpeting partisan views," Menendez wrote.
"In order to restore trust and maintain productive diplomatic ties with one of our closest European allies, it is critical for the State Department to show that it takes these comments and their negative impact on our diplomatic relations abroad seriously," he added.
Grenell denied in a tweet on Sunday that he sought to take a political stand with his comments, but stopped short of fully retracting them, saying that Trump had led an "awakening from the silent majority" in the U.S. and Europe.
"Don’t put words in my mouth. The idea that I’d endorse candidates/parties is ridiculous," Grenell tweeted. "I stand by my comments that we are experiencing an awakening from the silent majority - those who reject the elites & their bubble. Led by Trump."
The State Department also defended Grenell's comments this week, saying that he was "was merely highlighting that there are some parties and candidates in Europe who are doing well right now."
Grenell's comments have drawn scorn from a number of German lawmakers and officials, some of whom have called for the U.S. envoy to be expelled from Berlin. After the remarks were published on Sunday, the German Foreign Ministry said that it had asked Grenell to clarify his position.
Grenell, who took office just last month, has ruffled feathers in Germany before. After Trump announced last month that the U.S. would back out of the Iran nuclear deal, Grenell tweeted that "German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately."
Grenell was confirmed in April after a lengthy battle in the Senate. Menendez was among the Democrats who opposed his nomination.