Richard Grenell’s quest to be secretary of state in a second Trump administration started late on Election Day in 2020, when the defeated president dispatched loyalists to run shambolic “cease the steal” operations in battleground states.

President Donald J. Trump tapped Mr. Grenell — his combative former ambassador to Germany, performing nationwide intelligence chief and particular envoy to the Balkans — to fly by non-public aircraft to Nevada, the place Mr. Grenell ensconced himself, his canine Lola, legal professionals and a crew of far-right activists in a collection on the Venetian Resort, which served because the group’s struggle room in Las Vegas. In a days-long spectacle, the Trump crew filed a lawsuit and aired false accusations of fraud, together with one wrongly implicating tons of of members of the military.

It was all a sham. Mr. Grenell instructed the crew within the struggle room, two G.O.P. operatives recalled, that the Nevada vote was not, in truth, stolen. The operatives, who requested to not be named for worry of reprisal from Mr. Grenell, stated he instructed the crew that the aim was merely to “throw spaghetti on the wall” — the operatives described Mr. Grenell making a theatrical tossing gesture as he spoke — to distract the media from calling Nevada whereas the election battle in neighboring Arizona performed out.

On reflection, one of many operatives stated, the Home committee investigating the Jan. 6 assault on the Capitol ought to have subpoenaed everybody within the room, together with the operative himself.

Mr. Grenell declined to be interviewed on the file, although he stated in an e mail that he was going to “do what I need with the ultimate product to right the file and present the errors.”

This text relies on interviews with 40 folks, together with almost three dozen Republicans. Most requested for anonymity as a result of they didn’t need to hurt their possibilities of roles in a future Trump administration or to unleash the wrath of Mr. Grenell, who often savages these he disagrees with on social media. One Republican former operative stated that after a current disagreement, Mr. Grenell combed 5 years’ price of the operative’s tweets to gasoline an internet assault that lasted for weeks.

To his detractors, Mr. Grenell is a caustic opportunist of modest achievement who scaled the heights of an administration wherein pit bull partisanship was prized. Susan E. Rice, President Biden’s former home coverage adviser and a former nationwide safety adviser to President Barack Obama, has known as him “some of the nasty, dishonest folks I’ve ever encountered.” Brad Chase, Mr. Grenell’s former enterprise accomplice, who fell out with him over his conversion to Trumpism, stated he was a “soulless, shameless sellout.”

To his supporters, Mr. Grenell is a loyal, tireless messenger for Mr. Trump who transmits the previous president’s calls for with an environment friendly bellicosity that stifles naysayers.

“President Trump trusts him as a pair of secure palms in deconstructing the executive state and confronting the deep state,” Stephen Okay. Bannon, the previous Trump strategist and host of the “Battle Room” podcast, stated in a short interview. “There’s a lot that’s acquired to be taken aside and jettisoned.”

Both manner, a number of folks near the previous president say that Mr. Grenell has an excellent likelihood of touchdown a high overseas coverage job in a second Trump administration — if not as secretary of state, which requires Senate affirmation, then maybe as nationwide safety adviser, which doesn’t. They be aware that Mr. Grenell has spent the previous three and a half years leveraging his Balkan contacts in enterprise ventures, together with with an essential accomplice — Jared Kushner, Mr. Trump’s son-in-law — and that he brings a bombastic bravado to American diplomacy held in excessive regard by the previous president.

“If you wish to keep away from struggle, you higher have a son of a bitch because the secretary of state,” Mr. Grenell stated in a March episode of “Self Centered,” a present occasions podcast. America wants a “robust” chief diplomat, he stated, “who goes in to those tables and says: ‘Guys, if we don’t resolve this right here, if we don’t characterize peace and determine a troublesome manner, I’ve acquired to take this file, return to america and switch it to the secretary of protection, who doesn’t negotiate. He’s going to bomb you.’”

Privately, Mr. Grenell has from time to time implied to former Trump administration colleagues that the secretary of state job has been promised to him, though two folks in Mr. Trump’s inside circle say such certainty from any job seeker is untimely.

One particular person near Mr. Trump stated the previous president has raised questions on Mr. Grenell’s communications work for overseas purchasers, prompted by Mr. Grenell’s Balkans work and a request from him last year that Mr. Trump meet President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

Considerations over conflicts of curiosity might sound ironic coming from Mr. Trump, who used the presidency to profit his companies. However the particular person near Mr. Trump cited two conversations wherein the previous president stated that he doesn’t like his advisers touring the world earning profits from their affiliation with him.

Nonetheless, Mr. Trump talks to Mr. Grenell repeatedly, and a 12 months and a half in the past was heaping reward on his pugilistic loyalty. “Ric Grenell: a fighter,” Mr. Trump said in Arizona in October 2022. “Now we have a terrific, nice man. An excellent fighter. He’s acquired quite a lot of future.”

Mr. Grenell has since been busy within the Balkans. He has made plans with Mr. Kushner for a luxurious lodge, condominium complicated and museum in Belgrade, the capital of Serbia, on the positioning of the 1999 NATO bombing that destroyed the headquarters of the Yugoslav Military. He’s additionally growing two different luxurious vacationer websites, one on an Albanian peninsula and the opposite on a Mediterranean island off the Albanian coast.

“I’m engaged on initiatives, non-public fairness initiatives, that I get to become profitable on,” Mr. Grenell said in a tv interview in Albania final 12 months. “Nobody ought to ever apologize for eager to become profitable.”

Mr. Grenell’s connections to the Balkans additionally circulate by way of the far-right outlet Newsmax, the place he’s an analyst and vice chairman for worldwide growth. Final 12 months, Newsmax entered right into a multiyear settlement with Telecom Serbia, the Serbian state provider, to broadcast Newsmax content material in Japanese Europe. Newsmax stated in an announcement that Mr. Grenell was not concerned within the negotiations over the deal.

Mr. Grenell has additionally teamed up with an arms supplier and former Newsmax pundit, John Cardillo, to discover ammunition manufacturing alternatives within the Balkans, based on two folks they instructed about their enterprise. Mr. Cardillo, whose firm is named M42 Tactical, was not too long ago sued for allegedly pocketing nearly $200,000 he was paid by a Ukrainian émigré, Michael Bogachek, to provide physique armor to police in Ukraine that was by no means delivered.

Mr. Cardillo agreed to repay the cash however has not, Mr. Bogachek’s lawyer stated. Mr. Cardillo declined to debate his work with Mr. Grenell, saying solely that “they had been non-public fairness offers within the non-public sector and had nothing in anyway to do with any public curiosity.”

Mr. Grenell has labored onerous to help not solely Mr. Trump but additionally his household. He helped Melania Trump safe $500,000 for two speeches on two consecutive days in 2022, together with one for Repair California, an election integrity and voter engagement group Mr. Grenell based in 2021. Final month, Mr. Grenell launched the previous first woman at a Log Cabin Republicans fund-raiser at Mar-a-Lago. He has publicly lauded Mr. Trump’s daughter Ivanka as the primary White Home official to acknowledge Mr. Grenell’s standing as America’s first homosexual cupboard member.

In an episode not beforehand reported, Mr. Grenell proposed final 12 months an thought to underscore Mr. Trump’s complaints that the indictments sought by the particular counsel, Jack Smith, had been political. Mr. Grenell instructed that Mr. Trump be part of him on a go to to the previous Kosovo president and prime minister, Hashim Thaci, in jail in The Hague, the place he awaits trial on struggle crimes expenses. Mr. Thaci was additionally indicted by Mr. Smith, who oversaw struggle crimes prosecutions in The Hague earlier than he was named particular counsel. Mr. Thaci has stated politics underlie the costs towards him.

Mr. Trump didn’t embrace Mr. Grenell’s thought. An individual near Mr. Thaci stated he discovered the thought of Mr. Trump and a raucous media scrum in entrance of The Hague Penitentiary Establishment amusing — however determined it could be finest to give attention to his personal case.

Mr. Grenell has posted solutions on social media that Mr. Thaci’s indictment was a Justice Division-led conspiracy.

Mr. Grenell’s path to the Trump White Home was circuitous. He grew up in Jenison, Mich., graduated from Evangel College, a Christian faculty in Springfield, Mo., acquired a grasp’s diploma from Harvard’s John F. Kennedy Faculty of Authorities and held a half-dozen political communications jobs earlier than touchdown in 2001 on the U.S. mission to the United Nations.

There he served as spokesman for 4 U.S. ambassadors to the U.N., together with John R. Bolton, who later grew to become Mr. Trump’s nationwide safety adviser. Immersed in ground debate and coverage conferences, Mr. Grenell fielded reporters’ inquiries in the course of the fraught years after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist assaults and constructed a popularity for testy, generally explosive, responses to queries and tales he disliked.

Jobless after Barack Obama gained the presidency in 2008, he finally based Capitol Media Partners, a communications agency that marketed a presence in a number of main cities. In actuality, Mr. Grenell and his enterprise accomplice, Mr. Chase, labored from their houses in Southern California. Mr. Grenell grew to become an early and vitriolic Twitter person who insulted journalists, celebrities and politicians. He denigrated the looks of ladies, together with two former secretaries of state — Hillary Clinton and Madeleine Albright — and the MSNBC anchor Rachel Maddow.

Capitol Media had purchasers with pursuits in Iran, Kenya, Congo, Moldova, Afghanistan and Somalia, based on archived variations of its web site. “An enormous quantity of it was media relations,” Mr. Chase stated. “Regardless of the trigger was, we had been speaking it to each main stakeholder,” resembling buyers, regulators and public officers.

In 2012, Mr. Grenell started a long-running animus with Ms. Rice, then President Obama’s U.N. ambassador. He helped tank her nomination to be secretary of state by mentioning her support for Rwanda’s president, Paul Kagame, who was sponsoring violence within the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo.

That very same 12 months, Mr. Grenell and Mr. Chase pitched an Iranian dissident, Alireza Jafarzadeh, on a plan to pay them between $15,000 and $25,000 a month to “assist affect change for Iran” amongst elected officers and “different key audiences,” based on a duplicate of a Capitol Media Companions proposal. Mr. Jafarzadeh was a Washington-based consultant for the Iranian resistance group often called the Mujahedeen Khalq, or the M.E.Okay., which in 2012 was campaigning to be faraway from the State Division’s listing of overseas terrorist organizations.

There was already a crowded subject of American politicians working for the group, amongst them Rudolph W. Giuliani, who pushed the State Division to revoke M.E.Okay.’s terrorist itemizing, which it did in September 2012. It’s unclear precisely what Mr. Grenell did for Mr. Jafarzadeh, or how a lot he was paid. Mr. Grenell wouldn’t remark, and Mr. Jafarzadeh would solely say in a current interview that he has had “no work-related relationship with Mr. Grenell for over a decade.”

Mr. Grenell’s subsequent cease was transient. In a stint as a overseas coverage spokesman for Mitt Romney’s 2012 presidential marketing campaign, he lasted only two weeks amid scrutiny of his social media posts, probably the most scathing of which he apologized for, and tons of of which he deleted. Although Mr. Romney’s advisers urged him to remain, Mr. Grenell stop, angering his allies on the marketing campaign, who say he solid homophobia on the far proper as the rationale for his departure, two of these allies stated.

Mr. Grenell started the 2016 marketing campaign as a fierce Trump critic: He known as him “harmful!” in a deleted tweet recovered by Politico and the cybersecurity agency Nisos. However after Mr. Trump gained the nomination, Mr. Grenell grew to become a high-profile booster, aided by his work as a paid commentator on Fox Information. That very same 12 months, Mr. Grenell’s firm was paid $103,750 by a basis principally funded by Hungary’s far-right authorities, and he wrote opinion essays, which he has stated had been unpaid, defending a Moldovan oligarch who was put under sanctions by the State Department for corruption.

By 2018, Mr. Trump had nominated him to be his U.S. ambassador to Germany. Inside weeks of arriving in Berlin, Mr. Grenell drew condemnation from each side of the Atlantic after telling Breitbart London that he wished to empower European conservative leaders who challenged “the failed insurance policies of the left.”

Mr. Grenell’s feedback so obliterated the neutrality anticipated of a diplomat that Martin Schulz, the previous president of the European Parliament and a former chief of Germany’s Social Democratic Get together, known as his conduct extra like that of a “far-right colonial officer.” In Washington, Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut, deemed the remarks “terrible.”

Mr. Grenell plunged forward. He gave interviews about his canine, hosted gatherings within the embassy residence and on the 2019 Munich Safety Convention appeared on a panel with Stuart Milk, the brother of the slain homosexual rights activist Harvey Milk, to name on some 70 nations to repeal legal guidelines that deal with L.G.B.T.Q. folks as criminals.

“It’s not lip service,” stated Miriam Richter, the Harvey Milk Basis’s normal counsel. “It’s one thing he feels very strongly about.” (Different L.G.B.T.Q. teams have a much harsher view of his advocacy.)

In 2020, Mr. Trump named Mr. Grenell to briefly exchange the performing director of nationwide intelligence, Joseph Maguire, who Mr. Trump had fired. Senate Democrats responded by requesting that the Justice Department investigate whether or not Mr. Grenell had violated the Overseas Brokers Registration Act, or FARA, which typically requires that folks disclose work within the U.S. on behalf of overseas governments. The letter cited Mr. Grenell’s work for Hungary and the Moldovan oligarch, and famous that he had not registered below FARA.

It’s unclear what grew to become of the request — the Justice Division declined to remark this week — however Mr. Grenell was by no means meant to be a everlasting intelligence chief. He was changed after three months by Consultant John Ratcliffe, a Texas Republican, who gained affirmation after Democrats concluded that though he was as partisan as Mr. Grenell, he was far much less poisonous.

Throughout his weeks within the submit, Mr. Grenell fired high officers and oversaw a wave of document declassifications aimed toward discrediting the U.S. intelligence neighborhood’s evaluation of Russia’s pro-Trump machinations within the 2016 marketing campaign.

Mr. Trump was happy.

“I believe you’ll go down because the all-time nice ‘performing’ ever, at any place,” Mr. Trump said at Mr. Grenell’s last cabinet meeting.

In late 2020, looking forward to a diplomatic coup within the closing days earlier than the presidential election, Mr. Trump dispatched Mr. Grenell on a mission that has flummoxed Western diplomats for a decade: To attempt to coax Serbia into recognizing Kosovo, a majority-Albanian former province, as an unbiased state. Mr. Grenell courted regional leaders, largely ignoring American and European Union diplomats who had labored on the problem for years.

Assured of a deal, Mr. Grenell proposed renaming an industrial reservoir bridging Kosovo and Serbia “Trump Lake” to memorialize his achievement. However negotiations failed after the struggle crimes tribunal in The Hague introduced plans to indict Mr. Thaci, the Kosovo president. Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo, more and more fractious, nonetheless name the lake by two totally different names, neither of which is Trump.

Kenneth P. Vogel, Eric Lipton and Glenn Thrush contributed reporting from Washington. Kitty Bennett contributed analysis.

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