Former Utah governor Jon Huntsman has been tapped for the most awkward ambassadorship in the Trump administration. Politico reports that Huntsman was offered the job of U.S. ambassador to Russia, and he plans to accept.
Navigating U.S.-Russia relations isn’t easy even when there isn’t an ongoing controversy over alleged election hacking, and Huntsman has an awkward personal history with the president. About a month after Huntsman suspended his 2012 presidential campaign, Trump attacked him on Twitter:
Huntsman endorsed Trump for president in April 2016, then called for him to drop out of the race after the grab-’em-by-the-pussy video emerged in October.
A senior administration official told CNN that Huntsman was selected because he is a “tough” and “brilliant guy,” and understands what Trump wants.
This is the second time Huntsman has been given an ambassadorship amid speculation about his political ambitions. He served as ambassador to Singapore under President George H.W. Bush and as ambassador to China under President Barack Obama. Obama’s team thought sending Huntsman to China would take him out of the running in 2012, but he resigned his post in 2011 and launched a short-lived presidential campaign. As Bloomberg notes, going to Moscow will likely prevent Huntsman from challenging 82-year-old Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah in the 2018 Republican primary. Polls show that Huntsman is far more popular than Hatch in Utah.
The position requires Senate confirmation. In 2009, Huntsman was approved unanimously to serve as ambassador to China.