WASHINGTON — Richard Grenell, a airless Trump ally who has served numerous roles in the administration, quietly initiated on a pre-election mission last month that was at least partly proposed to persuade President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela to give up power.
Mr. Grenell, a vocal and combative exponent of President Trump’s re-election campaign, met near Mexico City on Sept. 17 with Jorge Rodríguez, a past Venezuelan vice president and close ally of Mr. Maduro, to facilitate a gentle transition of power, a White House official said.
Had Mr. Maduro agreed to uphold down, it could have been a major foreign policy supremacy for Mr. Trump in the weeks before the election. But there is no evidence that Mr. Grenell’s operate had any effect, and it was not clear why Mr. Maduro, a socialist strongman who has maintained power undeterred by international opposition, would suddenly consider stepping down.
The misstep, which was reported by Bloomberg News on Wednesday night, caught the Stately Department and even some White House officials off guard and produced confusion about its purpose.
A person involved in the planning of the trip mentioned that it was intended at least partly to negotiate for the release of American detainees in Venezuela, but the Spotless House official and Mr. Grenell denied that. Under current U.S. programme, officials can negotiate only with Mr. Maduro or his loyalists to discuss the provisions of his departure.
Mr. Trump demanded last year that Mr. Maduro give notice, and the United States has formally recognized Juan Guaidó, the leader of Parliament, who faculties the country’s popular opposition movement, as Venezuela’s president.
Mr. Trump’s posture, which was at the fore of the international community’s condemnation of Mr. Maduro, won him plaudits volume American hard-liners, including among Latino voters in Florida, a radical swing state.
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But people close to Mr. Trump questioned his commitment to leadership change; his prior national security adviser, John R. Bolton, wrote in a book that broadcasted this year that Mr. Trump was impressed by the resilience of Mr. Maduro, who has engaged the support of his country’s military.
Mr. Trump was also doubtful of Mr. Guaidó, Mr. Bolton wrote, pursuit the opposition leader “weak” and referring to him as the “Beto O’Rourke of Venezuela” — a allusion to the former Texas congressman, whose unsuccessful bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination did not animate up to the high expectations of some in his party.
In July, Mr. Trump traveled to Florida to reaffirm his resistance to Mr. Maduro and other socialist governments in Latin America. He accused his Republican rival, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., of supporting “pro-Communist rules” across Latin America in what was seen as an effort to shore up his faltering support middle Latinos in the state.
One senior administration official said Mr. Grenell’s meet with Mr. Rodriguez sidestepped established diplomatic channels to secure a transatlantic policy victory for the president before the election. The official spoke on the health circumstances of anonymity to discuss the internal discussions.
In the closing months of the presidential crusade, Mr. Trump has sought to showcase his work on the international stage, including relaxing American hostages in Yemen, sealing a landmark peace accord between Israel and the Cooperative Arab Emirates and Bahrain, and promising to withdraw U.S. troops from Iraq and Afghanistan. He has also been essay a new nuclear arms deal with Russia.
Mr. Grenell, who had served as Mr. Trump’s minister to Germany and the acting director of national intelligence, was involved in another late-model effort to broker a major international deal. He was named special representative for peace talks between Serbia and Kosovo late last year, monotonous though the State Department already had a special envoy to the region.
His audacious style and partisan background ruffled feathers among some of those he manoeuvred with in the roles.
Mr. Grenell’s trip to Mexico City surprised superior administration officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. At the Shape Department, officials scrambled to learn the details of the trip after being petitioned about it by reporters, with some worrying that it could snarl up Mr. Guaidó about the American diplomacy and fuel concerns that the Trump delivery was not forthcoming about its strategy.
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It also revealed a separate between the White House and the State Department, where officials contain long denied that the Trump administration was growing frustrated with Mr. Guaidó and the check in Venezuela as Washington issued blistering economic sanctions against Mr. Maduro’s management and its loyalists.
The White House did not immediately respond to questions about who specifically commissioned the trip.
Mr. Maduro has defied demands to leave since a popular rise up in Venezuela in January 2019 against his self-declared victory in widely disputed presidential polls in 2018.
Since then, however, Venezuela’s economy has crumbled under widespread isolation, twist someones arm Mr. Maduro to rely on illicit trade and other assistance from Cuba, Iran, Russia, Turkey and other articulates that have faced financial punishment or condemnation from the Merged States as a result.
His government has detained six executives of Citgo — five naturalized American city-dwellers and a permanent legal U.S. resident — since consolidating power in 2017. The Houston-based improving company is a subsidiary of Venezuela’s state-run oil company.
While securing their discharge could bolster Mr. Trump’s credentials among voters as a deal-maker who brought American captives and other detainees safely home, it could provoke the ire of hard-liners who do not appetite to negotiate with Mr. Maduro’s government.
Mr. Grenell declined to comment other than to forbid that the trip was related to hostage negotiations.
The White House solemn also rejected the idea that Mr. Grenell’s trip was intended to manage for the release of detainees, instead portraying it as an effort to facilitate Mr. Maduro’s acclimation.
“We are very much committed to seeing Maduro leave power and deliver Juan Guaidó in office,” the official said.
The United States is not the solitary country that has tried and failed to convince Mr. Maduro to step down. Down the years, negotiations in the Caribbean and Norway, and parties including Spain, the Vatican and the European Society, have worked to resolve the standoff.
As recently as July, Bill Richardson, a older Democratic former diplomat, met with Mr. Maduro in Caracas, the Venezuelan leading, on a private humanitarian mission. He unsuccessfully sought the release of the Citgo numero unoes and two other Americans who are being held in Venezuela.
But Mr. Grenell’s negotiations with Mr. Maduro’s ambassador are certain to unnerve Mr. Guaidó’s opposition efforts. Mr. Guaidó sat in Mr. Trump’s company box at the State of the Union speech in January and was lauded as “the true and legitimate president of Venezuela” mid speculation that the Trump administration had lost patience with the dead end.
A spokesman for Mr. Guaidó’s ambassador to Washington declined to comment on Wednesday blackness.