US President Donald Trump will nominate veteran diplomat Jon Huntsman to the post of ambassador to Russia amid swirling controversy and multiple investigations into allegations that the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to win the 2016 election.
Huntsman, 57, previously served as US ambassador to China and Singapore.
If confirmed by the US Senate, Huntsman would venture to Moscow for a job that will be particularly high-profile as a special counsel in Washington probes the ever-growing Russia scandal plaguing the White House.
Huntsman, a Mormon, spent less than two years in that post before launching a failed bid to secure the 2012 Republican presidential nomination.
A two-time governor of the state of Utah, Huntsman currently serves as chairman of the Atlantic Council, a foreign policy think tank, as is a director on a number of corporate boards, including Caterpillar, Chevron, Ford Motor Company and Hilton.
The father-of-seven initially endorsed Trump for president last year, but later called on him to drop out following the release of a 2005 recording in which the former reality TV star used vulgar language to brag about groping women.
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.
But Huntsman and Trump buried their differences during Trump’s transition.
A moderate Republican, he was George Bush Sr’s ambassador to Singapore from 1992-93 — becoming the youngest American to hold the post of ambassador in more than 100 years.
He served as a deputy trade representative under George W. Bush’s administration from 2001-2003 where he helped negotiate several pacts with China.
He then resigned to run for governor of Utah, winning with 78 percent of the vote when he stood a second time.
Former president Barack Obama reached across party lines to name Huntsman his ambassador to China in 2009, a position he held until 2011, when he left to launch a presidential run against his former boss.
The White House made the announcement shortly after it confirmed that Trump had a previously undisclosed conversation with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a dinner at the G-20 summit in Hamburg, Germany, earlier this month.
Huntsman is the son of a billionaire industrialist whose company Huntsman International LLC currently has a handful of businesses in Russia, including plants that make pigments and polyurethanes, the Salt Lake Tribune has reported.
Huntsman Jr. played a role in the family’s early business dealings in the country shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union, the paper has said.