Jon Huntsman Jr. in talks to serve as US ambassador to Russia

Posted at 10:36 AM, Mar 01, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-02 00:17:35-05

Former Utah Governor and 2012 GOP presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. is in discussions to become US ambassador to Russia, a senior administration official told CNN.

The source said Huntsman Jr. spoke with Secretary of State Rex Tillerson about it last week and discussions are progressing.

Tim Chambless of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah says Trump needs someone in Moscow with no connection to his campaign or businesses, and Huntsman Jr. fits the bill.

"It's important that someone be in that position of U.S. Ambassador to Russia who has impeccable credentials and distance originally from the Trump campaign," Chambless said.

Though he has the distance, Chambless indicated Huntsman Jr. could be an attractive choice for President Trump, because he endorsed the president early on in the election.

"Donald Trump values loyalty," Chambless said.

Plus, he said Huntsman Jr. has the right background. Huntsman Jr. was born into the business world, was twice-elected the Governor of Utah, and served two stints as a US ambassador-- in Singapore for George H. W. Bush and China under the presidency of Barack Obama.

"Well-known for his honesty and his good sense, both as a politician, diplomat and a corporate businessman," Chambless said.

But Huntsman isn't quite a clear-cut choice, says Chambless, because his expertise focuses on East Asia and he's fluent in Mandarin Chinese.

"It's a little bit of a stretch given the fact that he doesn't speak Russian," Chambless said, later adding that in Russia, "Historically we've had professional diplomats, ones that usually are fluent in the language."

A source close to Huntsman told CNN he had been in touch with President Donald Trump’s top advisers and possibly Trump himself.

Earlier this week, CNN’s Jim Acosta had learned per a senior administration official that Huntsman was under consideration for a position. A Huntsman spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

Huntsman’s name had come up during Trump’s transition when his team was searching for a Secretary of State nominee.

Chambless said a position as US ambassador to Russia could still get Huntsman Jr. the title of Secretary of State later on.

"[This] would position him to potentially be Secretary of State in this administration or a future administration," he said, adding, "It also politically positions him well to perhaps run for president again."

Fox 13 News reached out to Huntsman, but he hasn't commented to any media about the reports.