Trump Formally Nominates Huntsman as U.S. Ambassador to Russia
President Donald Trump nominated former Utah governor and onetime Republican presidential candidate Jon Huntsman Jr. as his envoy to Moscow, the White House announced Tuesday.
The official selection of Huntsman, 56, who served as ambassador to Singapore under former President George H.W. Bush and ambassador to China under former President Barack Obama, came as the White House was again confronting questions about Trump and Russia.
On Tuesday, the White House confirmed a previously undisclosed encounter between Trump and Russian president Vladimir Putin during a social dinner at the G-20 summit. That revelation came as details continued to emerge about a meeting last year between the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr., other top campaign officials, and a group of Russian lawyers and lobbyists that was set up on a promise to provide damaging information about Hillary Clinton during the election.
The White House has downplayed both incidents as routine and insisted that the Trump campaign never colluded with Russia during the contest against Clinton. Russia’s attempts to interfere with the 2016 election and possible links to that effort among Trump’s associates are the subjects of investigations by Special Counsel Robert Mueller and several congressional committees.
But the interest in and concern over the two recent episodes underscores the complicated relationship between the U.S. and Russia that Huntsman will need to navigate. The investigations seem certain to create additional diplomatic headaches in the months to come as the two countries also are dealing with other thorny issues, including Syria and North Korea.
Huntsman had an abbreviated campaign for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012. His decision to accept the post in Moscow means the Utah Republican is unlikely to mount a primary challenge to his state’s 82-year-old senator, fellow Republican Orrin Hatch. Mitt Romney, another former Republican presidential candidate — who won the party’s nomination in 2012 — is also thought to be considering the seat.
In 2011, Huntsman had assets of $15.9 million to $71.3 million, according to a financial disclosure form he filed as part of his presidential bid. The bulk of his wealth comes from Huntsman Corp., the chemical company his father founded in 1970.
The company, based in Salt Lake City and with an operations headquarters near Houston, runs manufacturing operations in Russia. In the past, Huntsman has divested himself of family business holdings when he has accepted ambassadorships to avoid conflicts of interest.
Huntsman has held various positions with the company throughout the years. He was hired as a consultant in August 2015 to help boost the company’s business in Asia, a Securities and Exchange Commission filing shows.
His duties, according to the document, included “development and continued maintenance of governmental and business relationships in developing economic regions, particularly in connection with markets and opportunities in India, China and Southeast Asia.”
The company said it would pay Huntsman $50,000 a month and as much as $200,000 in additional compensation “based on achievement of designated results as determined by the Board.” The consulting agreement was to expire on Aug. 31, 2016, although it could be extended for one-year terms.
Huntsman Corp. increased its U.S. employment from about 2,000 in 2010 to 3,000 in 2016, while its international workers have gone from about 10,000 to 15,000 during that period.