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Jon Huntsman Tapped To Be Ambassador To Russia

Jon Huntsman

Jon Huntsman, who previously served as Ambassador to Singapore under President George H.W. Bush and Ambassador to China under President Obama, has been tapped to be the next U.S. Ambassador to Russia:

Jon Huntsman has accepted President Donald Trump’s offer to be the next ambassador to Russia, a source close to Huntsman confirmed to NBC News Wednesday.

It will be the former Utah Republican governor’s third ambassadorship in a long career of service. He previously served as Ambassador to Singapore under President George H.W. Bush and was later tapped to be President Barack Obama’s Ambassador to China.

Huntsman, a former 2012 GOP presidential hopeful, endorsed Trump during the 2016 presidential campaign but called on him to drop out after a hot mic audio recording from 2006 revealed Trump bragging that he could grab women by their genitals without their consent.

News of the Russian ambassadorship was first reported by Politico.

Being Trump’s man in Moscow may carry with it an effort to follow through on the president’s hope of mending relations with the Kremlin. Trump, who has repeatedly praised Russian President Vladimir Putin, often wondered aloud on the campaign trail “wouldn’t it be great if we got along with Russia?”

Russia has become an important part of American politics with the rise of Donald Trump due both to the increased aggressiveness we’ve seen from the Putin regime since shortly after the Sochi Olympics ended in 2014 and the current controversies about apparent Russian attempts to influence the 2016 election. Given that, Huntsman seems like an ideal choice for what is likely to be an important Ambassadorial position in the coming years. As noted, he’s served as Ambassador twice before and it’s generally agreed that he performed very well in both positions. Additionally, the fact that he isn’t someone who was part of Trump’s inner circle means that he’s likely to have a somewhat freer hand and at least won’t be tainted by the allegations surrounding the Trump campaign at the moment.

Prior to accepting this position, Huntsman’s name was also mentioned as a potential Deputy Secretary of State, and he would have been well-suited to that position as well. Additionally, there had been speculation that Huntsman could be a candidate for Senate in Utah in 2018, but that would have largely depended on whether or not Senator Orrin Hatch, who would be running for his eighth term in 2018, decides to run for re-election. When he ran for re-election in 2012, Hatch indicated it would be his last electoral bid, but there have been several reports in recent months that Hatch, who is currently the longest-serving Republican in the Senate and serves as President Pro Tempore of the Senate, may run for reelection after all. If that happens, then it’s unlikely that any Republicans will run against him and he would be easily reelected. On the other hand, if Hatch does end up retiring, it could open the seat up to a significant primary fight. Among the possible candidates are Congressman Jason Chaffetz, a Hatch loyalist, Mitt Romney, Josh Romney, and possibly other Republicans such as current Governor Gary Herbert,  former Governor Mike Leavitt, Evan McMullen, who previously ran as an independent candidate for President in 2016, and Congresswoman Mia Love. Huntsman could theoretically resign his post in Moscow to run for Senate, but he did that back in 2012 and it didn’t go over so well with voters. Accepting this position likely means that Huntsman has either ruled out running for Senate, or he’s got inside information that Hatch will indeed run for re-election.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    I wonder who made this pick for Trump, and why Trump went along with it, given that Huntsman has, in the past, been very critical of Trump.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 12 Thumb down 0

  2. Neil Hudelson says:

    Huh…

    This is a surprisingly competent pick.

    What am I missing here?

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  3. al-Alameda says:

    Trump is striving put a veneer of respectability to his administration’s diplomatic appointees.

    However, Russia? If I’m Jon Huntsman I’m not going anywhere near this offer.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  4. MarkedMan says:

    From what I understand, he was quite a good ambassador to China, albeit before my time there. But I have to agree with al-Alameda on this: why would anyone with any sense accept such a position? Trump is waste deep in Russian sh*t, with constant lies about contacts, shady Ukranians on his payroll, and business dealings with Russian Mafia connected FBI informants. With all that sh*t tossed around, it’s almost inevitable some will be smeared on Huntsman.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  5. CSK says:

    @MarkedMan: Maybe it’s The Revenge of Trump against Huntsman, though that may be a little convoluted for Trump’s thought processes.

    More interesting is the fact that Huntsman’s publicly expressed comments about Russia (there aren’t many) appear to be the opposite of Trump’s.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  6. CSK says:

    @al-Alameda:

    Huntsman’s already accepted. The Trumpkins are having a hard time rationalizing this once, since they hate Huntsman.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 0

  7. @Neil Hudelson:

    To be honest, Trump’s foreign policy team is pretty strong, especially with Flynn gone at NSC Adviser. The question is whether Trump listens to them or not when the time comes.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 2

  8. CSK says:

    @Doug Mataconis: That’s pretty much always the question with Trump, isn’t it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  9. My first reaction: am amazingly competent pick.

    My second reaction: god help the man, because he is going to get sucked into the whole Russia-Trump maelstrom.

    @Doug Mataconis:

    To be honest, Trump’s foreign policy team is pretty strong, especially with Flynn gone at NSC Adviser. The question is whether Trump listens to them or not when the time comes.

    I have my doubts about Tillerson, to be honest, but yes: it is not as out there are some of the other departments. The concerning thing is that he is probably listening more to Bannon, Miller, and Gorka,

    Highly-rated. Helpful or Unhelpful: Thumb up 15 Thumb down 0

  10. Jen says:

    I’m sincerely baffled by this. One, Huntsman is a skilled diplomat–so, good choice. On the other hand, he’s far more clear-eyed on Russia than his new boss is, and as others have already noted, will Trump listen to him if a firm hand is necessary?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  11. Argon says:

    Headline: Jon Huntsman Tapped To Be Ambassador To Russia

    I see what you did there…

    You could’ve written ‘trapped’ too.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  12. James Pearce says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    My second reaction: god help the man, because he is going to get sucked into the whole Russia-Trump maelstrom.

    Hopefully with several bodyguards and a robust security detail.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  13. MarkedMan says:

    Just to add to the Trump/Russia mess. It is reasonable to assume that Julian Assange’s Wikileaks served as the intermediary between the Russian intelligence services and their little “gifts” to the Trump campaign. So with all the attention given to Trump’s Russia shenanigans, what was so urgent that Nigel Farange, last seen dining with the Trump family and “unofficial” advisor to Trump, had to meet with Assange in person today at the Ecuadorian embassy.

    If it looks like a turd, smells like a turd, and the Trump that laid it treats it like a turd, by god it’s probably a turd.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  14. Gustopher says:

    at least [Hunstman] won’t be tainted by the allegations surrounding the Trump campaign at the moment.

    He won’t start tainted, but there’s no way he remains untainted. Possibly completely innocent and uninvolved, but tainted by association.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 7 Thumb down 0

  15. Gustopher says:

    @Doug Mataconis: who is strong in the Trump foreign policy team? The state department is hollowed out, and going to receive a 35% budget cut. Bannon is in the mix…

    I’m not seeing strength or competence.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  16. @Gustopher:

    The state department is hollowed out

    A legitimate concern.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 0

  17. gVOR08 says:

    I couldn’t believe anyone would report this without mentioning Trump’s Russian ties. Below the quoted paragraphs they did say:

    And the selection of Huntsman also comes as allegations of connections between the Trump campaign and Russian officials continue to dog the Trump administration

    I’ve worked for a couple of really bad bosses, one in particular who’s only qualification for being president was being a brother-in-law of the owner’s squeeze.. He occasionally did something right and I’d spend time second guessing my opinion of him. Waste of time. Nobody can be wrong all the time, but it turned out he could be a bad boss all the time. And Trump has powerful motivation to cover his ass by making relations with Russia look normal right now.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 0

  18. Scott says:

    He meets my minimal criteria I use these days on all things Trump: At least he’s not nuts!

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  19. MarkedMan says:

    @gVOR08:

    Nobody can be wrong all the time, but it turned out he could be a bad boss all the time.

    This is great. Can I steal it?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  20. MarkedMan says:

    Spicer was just asked about the meeting between Farange and Assange. He basically pretended that Farange was just some random foreign politician and it was ridiculous to think there might be some connection. You know, basically telegraphing the party line to Fox and Friends for the next time his Boss sits down for a fluff job.

    Which brings me back to: what is so important for Trump to get across to Assange that he would send one of his co-conspirators in to talk to him in person? I mean, even the Trumpistas must realize this looks guilty as hell. Is it possible for a President to pardon someone for crimes they haven’t been charged with yet? Perhaps Trump is offering him asylum? Or maybe just threatening him?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  21. MarkedMan says:

    …and now we find out that Flynn just file the paperwork acknowledging that he was a paid agent of the Turkish government through November at least.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  22. Jc says:

    I give credit to Huntsman. He has integrity and the desire to serve his country. He served under a Democrat President when others in his party would have turned up their nose in spite and now he serves under a crazy man where others would take the high road and avoid at all costs. Good for him.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. gVOR08 says:

    @MarkedMan: You’re welcome to it.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Huh…I guess you can file this under “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em…”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  25. CSK says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Maybe. It’s just odd that Bannon, Miller, Gorka, and Conway would agree to this choice, or go along with it. Trump does whatever the last person who tells him he’s wonderful tells him to do. So who told him he was the most wonderful POTUS ever and then suggested Huntsman? Would Ivanka or Jared be down with Huntsman?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  26. Barry says:

    @Neil Hudelson: “Huh…

    This is a surprisingly competent pick.

    What am I missing here?”

    My money is on ‘will disgrace himself like – well, like all of those who serve Trump’.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  27. Slugger says:

    I think this is good. Another Starbucks to counterbalance Captain Ahab.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  28. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Barry: To counter your cynicism (which I share), I’ll put my money on gets called back for not being willing to humiliate both himself and the country and/or offends Putin.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 0

  29. Liberal Capitalist says:

    @CSK:

    . It’s just odd that Bannon, Miller, Gorka, and Conway would agree to this choice, or go along with it.

    Face it… they finally realized that the word “Russia” was so toxic, none of them would go anywhere near it.

    So they threw one of their political enemies at it, hoping to not hear from him for years.

    For the Trump team, it’s a win-win… with the strategy likely gleaned from an old “Hogan’s Heros” threat of being sent to the Russian Front.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  30. Rick Zhang says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    He has a good foreign policy team, but the problem is he sidelines all of them in favour of Bannon and Kushner.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 0

  31. Jim Brown 32 says:

    Last Sunday I told you what the pattern of obfuscation is for Trump. He does makes outrageous twitter accusations, causes outrage for a few news cycles then pivots to something rational and “Presidential.”

    Jeff Sessions is not even on Page 10 anymore. Mission Accomplished.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  32. @Jim Brown 32: Or, maybe he is just erratic.

    In terms of trying to downplay discussion of Russia, appointing the ambassador to Russia isn’t exactly super-villain level distraction.

    The thing that has sucked most of the oxygen this week has been the new health care proposal, which hasn’t exactly been an impressive roll-out.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  33. Matt says:

    @Jim Brown 32: What surprises me is that you’re surprised at all. Without any new bits of information of course the media has run off to the next thing. The media in this country has ADD worse than I do and it doesn’t take a trump tweet to set it off..

    THe health care proposal and the circus surrounding it has been the latest media fascination. Next week who knows what it’ll be.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Dr Taylor, the goal was not to end talk of Russia–it was to end discussion of Session + Russia. Russian linkage with Trump is not a threat to Trump directly. Mostly because even if he did coordinate with Russia—exactly what crime was committed? Short of them changing the actual vote, election influencing is par for the course in geopolitics. I would expect Putin to curl up in a corner and not respond to our actions against him. In the very worse case scenario for Election 2016–you had Trump backed by the Russians and Clinton backed by the Saudis. A real lose-lose for the country anyway.

    You seem to think that Im alleging that what Trump does is super intelligent. Its not. Its also not super dumb or erratic–its more “crafty” than anything. What’s Im saying is that he has a strategy that he uses. If one understands that he has a strategy–one would be in the mindset to look for patterns and make predictions that would set the table to devise counter-attacks. If one believes Trump is dumb or erratic–no counter strategy would be necessary because dumb and erratic people (given enough time) self destruct anyway.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0