President Trump tapped former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman to be his man in Moscow and the 2012 presidential candidate has accepted the position, administration officials said Tuesday. Huntsman, who last served as Obama’s ambassador to China, will assume the ambassadorship, heading the American diplomatic mission that will be charged with navigating the treacherous domestic terrain that is the Trump administration’s relationship with the Kremlin.
If confirmed, Huntsman will come to the job as an outsider in the Trump universe. Huntsman has served under both Democratic and Republican administrations. Moderate and measured, Huntsman, in many ways, is the anti-Trump in style and substance. The former ambassador also sparred with his new boss during the 2016 campaign. From the Washington Post:
The former governor, a Mormon, had an up-and-down relationship with Trump during last year’s campaign. He was slow to endorse any candidate for the Republican nomination though did back Trump once he became the presumptive nominee. But Huntsman then called for Trump to drop out after the October release of a 2005 video in which Trump is captured on a hot microphone making lewd comments about women. He said then that the “campaign cycle has been nothing but a race to the bottom” and called for Trump’s running mate, then-Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, to top the GOP ticket.
Trump has also had a few, ahem, nasty things to say about Huntsman:
Besides Secretary of State Tillerson, Huntsman will be perhaps the highest profile member of Trump’s diplomatic corps that has largely been sidelined early in his presidency. The Moscow posting is a perilous one in this administration. At this point, for Huntsman, it’s unclear what success would look like, as closer ties with the Kremlin will smack of nefarious double-dealing by a White House that has had seeminly endless questionable ties to the country. Not to mention, acting as a go-between between Trump and Moscow has already torpedoed many in the Trump camp—and that’s before the myriad of Russia investigations have really taken off and subpoenas have been handed out.