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Jon Huntsman Jr. Confirmed As New U.S. Ambassador to Russia

by Countable | 9.29.17

Thursday the Senate unanimously confirmed Jon Huntsman Jr., former Utah Governor and U.S. Ambassador to China, as U.S. Ambassador to Russia.

In July the White House formally announced the nomination and the Kremlin approved it, a usual step for key diplomatic appointments. Though rumored for months prior to his selection by the administration, the choice of Huntsman is interesting because of historic tension between he and President Trump prior to the presidential election.

Sources at Countable with experience of Huntsman say he is not one to suffer fools, as the saying goes, nor to be a sycophant. His confirmation comes amid the swirls of ongoing investigations into the administration’s ties to Russia and efforts by administrative officials to improve relations with this historic rival nation. During his confirmation hearings Huntsman is fielded questions about the many complicated aspects of current U.S.- Russia relations, as well as his perspective on future relations.

Who is Jon Huntsman?

Jon Huntsman Jr. was born in California, into a long-standing and prominent Mormon family. He holds a BA in International Politics from the University of Utah. He and his wife, Mary Kaye Cooper, are the parents of seven children, including a daughter adopted from China and another from India.

Huntsman began his political career as a White House staff assistant under President Ronald Reagan. Under President George H. W. Bush he was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary of Commerce and U.S. Ambassador to Singapore. He served as Deputy U.S. Trade Representative under President George W. Bush, guiding the accession of China into the World Trade Organization.

Huntsman left federal politics to serve as the Governor of Utah from 2005-2009. He was considered a "center-right conservative", and maintained high approval ratings throughout his tenure.

President Barack Obama appointed Huntsman U.S. Ambassador to China, noting his experience in the region and proficiency in Mandarin Chinese. He held that post from 2009-2011, when he resigned to pursue the 2012 Republican presidential nomination. He lost that nomination to his distant cousin Mitt Romney.

Huntsman was publicly critical of then-candidate Donald Trump during the presidential race when tapes surfaced of Trump bragging about sexually abusing women. He referred to the presidential campaign as a "race to the bottom" and called on Vice-President Mike Pence to step up and top the ticket. Prior to his presidential bid Trump had also been critical of Huntsman as ambassador to China, calling him “weak” and a “lightweight”.

However, during President-elect Trump’s transition they are reported to have mended fences and there was talk of Huntsman as a potential nominee for Secretary of State.

Newsweek reports that the Russian media are split on the potentials in Huntsman’s appointment, though they are in agreement that he will be better than departing Obama-appointee John Tefft. Tefft was repeatedly accused by the Russians of supporting pro-Western revolutions in neighboring countries. Russian media particularly noted Huntsman’s family ties to businesses operating in Russia, wondering how that may affect his positions. Huntsman serves on the boards of Caterpillar, Chevron, Hilton and Ford Motor. His family’s chemical company, the Huntsman Corporation, runs multiple facilities in Russia.

Russian media also noted his position as Chairperson of the Washington-based think tank the Atlantic Council. According to an expert, Alexander Dormin, quoted in a pro-Kremlin newspaper, the organization has a "history of investigating Russian military incursions in Ukraine and other research that has reflected Russian foreign policy in a negative light."

In his confirmation hearings Huntsman testified that he does believe U.S. intelligence reports that the Russians intentionally meddled in the 2016 presidential election.

Do you support the nomination of Jon Huntsman Jr. to be U.S. Ambassador to Russia? Use the Take Action button to tell your reps what you think!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore via Flickr / Creative Commons)

RELATED READING:

Senate confirms Jon Huntsman as Russia ambassador — Washington Post

Jon Huntsman: is Trump’s new ambassador to Russia a selfless public servant or opportunistic people-pleaser? — The Guardian

Jon Huntsman Jr. confirmed as U.S. Ambassador to Russia — Fox News

Countable

Written by Countable

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(40)
  • Henry
    07/19/2017
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    Huntsman is an excellent choice for any role. Republicans should have made him the Presidential nominee instead of the buffoon they nominated.

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  • Jeff
    07/19/2017
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    How can anyone be ok with Trump appointing anyone until we know what's going on for real?

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  • Jo
    07/20/2017
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    I have always admired Jon Huntsman--until now. He seemed to have common sense. His ideas didn't coincide with mine since he is a Republican but I still thought was was extremely bright and well spoken. He must be desperate to take this position offered by this poor excuse of a president. It will drag him down and he will not be able to recover. Why would any principled person take an appointment under this administration?

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  • Timothy
    09/29/2017
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    A qualified and capable Republican who is an excellent choice by an administration noted for its poor choices and disregard for international relations.

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  • Tiffany
    07/20/2017
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    I have mad respect for Huntsman. He was great as an ambassador to China. However, I completely disagree with him accepting this role. First, he'll be putting himself in the middle of a huge mess. He'll be subjecting himself to the scrutiny of the American public, but potentially also personal attacks from the president who appointed him. If Trump is willing to attack judges, journalists, etc., what will stop him from appointing you? Second, if you stand up to Trump in any small way, expect for him to try to find a way to throw you under the bus. That's just Trump's character (or lack thereof). Third, you may be put in very uncomfortable moral dilemmas when you uncover more information about Trump's Russia involvement. And lastly, this is a very clear attempt by Trump to court the Mormon vote. It's no big secret that Trump has had the lowest rate of support of any recent GOP candidate among Mormons. Young Mormons are especially anti-Trump. When a president goes so directly against the tenets of your religion, why let him use your nomination to court the vote among your people?

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  • BeStrong
    07/20/2017
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    Good luck sir, you are going to need it.

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  • NicknSC
    07/20/2017
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    Shouldn't the fact that Russia approves of his selection be a reason to really dig into his life. Trump did not like him until Russia approved of him, now he is a great man with beautiful ideas, lol!

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  • Thomas
    07/19/2017
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    Frankly, I would have preferred that Huntsman had been reappointed to the China post, where his talents and language skills could be better used. Posted to Russian, his principal task will be keeping Trump and Tillerson from messing things up. If past experience teaches us anything, this will be a full time job. It will also be a real waste of a talented adult. Sad.

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  • Dawn
    07/20/2017
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    Another candidate with ties to Russia? Doesn't DJT know ANYONE who could be more impartial?

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  • Mary
    07/19/2017
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    I would vote yes on Huntsman. He has a proven track record, and is a statesman.

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  • Ticktock
    07/19/2017
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    Good choice, surprise! Lots of experience and intelligence. May be the third party candidate for President in 2020. Led Utah as Governor. Appears to have done a great job. Has convictions, ideals but will lead as a pragmatist. Has my vote.

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  • Bluewitsend
    09/29/2017
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    John Huntsman seems experienced in his diplomatic abilities. Hopefully he still does not suffer fools.

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  • John
    07/20/2017
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    Just goes to show that even a moron succeeds every now and then. Hell, a broken clock is right twice a day. Good choice for a change.

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  • KansasTamale
    09/29/2017
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    Great. Another Russia connection as the Ambassador for Russia. When Is this Russia invasion created by Trump going to stop?? This guy worked for the Russian bank that IS NOT SANCTIONED BY THE US.

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  • Judith
    09/29/2017
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    THE CONGRESSIONAL REPUBLICANS ARE RUSSIAN STOOGES ! THEY ALL NEEDED TO STAND TRIAL AND THEN STAND BLINDFOLDED FOR THE REST OF THEIR SLIMY SHORT LIVES BEFORE A FIRING SQUAD A FEW YEARS AGO WHEN THEY SOLD OUT OUR NATION TO THE RUSSIANS !!!!!!

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  • Jennifer
    09/30/2017
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    He seems qualified but I worry about the conflict of interest with his business in Russia. Why can’t they select appointees with no conflicts of interest?

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  • Robert
    07/19/2017
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    I am down with this.

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  • Sheryl
    09/29/2017
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    Jon Huntsman was able to keep Utah afloat AND thriving when the rest of the nation was struggling. He's a great choice as Ambassador and would have been an even greater choice as President.

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  • Donna
    07/19/2017
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    According to MSNBC, he speaks not one word of Russian. This should go well....

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  • Vanessa
    07/19/2017
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    I forgot...What did the reality star call Jon Huntsman on the campaign trail??

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