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Trump Picks Jon Huntsman To Be U.S. Ambassador To Russia

The White House announced Tuesday night that former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman, shown here in 2012, is President Trump's choice to be the next U.S. ambassador to Russia.

The White House announced Tuesday night that President Trump intends to nominate former Gov. Jon Huntsman of Utah to be U.S. ambassador to Russia.

If confirmed, Huntsman would take over a high-profile post amid ongoing probes into Russian meddling in the presidential election and potential ties between Russian officials and the Trump campaign.

The White House made the announcement after it confirmed that Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin held a separate, private conversation at the Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, that had not been previously disclosed.

Huntsman has served as an ambassador before. Under President Barack Obama, he was U.S. ambassador to China, and under President George H.W. Bush, he was ambassador to Singapore. Huntsman also ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.

Tuesday night's announcement ends months of delay in formalizing the appointment amid deteriorating relations between the U.S. and Russia.

The Washington Post reports:

"The White House confirmed in March that it would name Huntsman to the Russia post. But delayed formally naming him and sending the nomination to the Senate for confirmation as the United States waited for the Kremlin to approve his selection.

"The Kremlin approved Huntsman's appointment Monday night about the same time that the United States approved Russian politician Anatoly Antonov to serve as Russia's ambassador in Washington, according to a person familiar with the situation who was not authorized to speak publicly about pending appointments. Ambassadors must be approved by the governments of the countries that will host them."

The former governor, a Mormon, had a rocky relationship with Trump during last year's presidential campaign.

The Associated Press reports:

"Huntsman was slow to endorse any candidate for the Republican nomination though he 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 was captured on a hot microphone making lewd comments about women.

"Huntsman 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 also went after Huntsman during his tenure as ambassador to Beijing. In a series of tweets in 2011 and 2012, the celebrity businessman called Huntsman a "lightweight" and "weak" and claimed that China "did a major number on us" during his tenure."

Huntsman and Trump resolved their differences during the Trump administration's transition.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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