During his confirmation hearing today for the post of ambassador to Russia, former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman made clear that, unlike President Trump, he believes that Russia interfered in the US election.
“There is no question, underline no question, that the Russian government interfered in the US election last year, and Moscow continues to meddle in the democratic processes of our friends and allies,” Huntsman said in his opening statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
In January, intelligence agencies issued a report that concluded that Russian president Vladimir Putin had ordered an influence campaign targeting the 2016 US election. Still, President Trump has regularly cast doubt on the existence of Russian election interference. In June he called it “a big Dem HOAX!” and later said “it could well have been other countries” that hacked the Democratic National Committee. In his confirmation hearing, Huntsman—who was formally nominated for the Russian ambassadorship by the White House in July—continued to reject Trump’s hedging on this question, reiterating his support for the findings of the intelligence community, and pledging to discuss the matter with Russian officials.
“It’s a powerful symbol when you get the director of national intelligence, the director of the CIA, the head of the NSA, the head of the FBI, who come together in unison behind their findings,” Huntsman said. “As a consumer of their material for some years, I very rarely see them come together in such a coordinated fashion. Of one mind and one conclusion. So I think that expresses where the facts are with respect to Russia’s involvement in our election.”
Huntsman is an experienced politician and diplomat, having previously served as the ambassador to Singapore, and later to China during the Obama administration. He also ran for the Republican presidential nomination in 2012.
Later in the hearing, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) highlighted the contrast between Huntsman’s words and those of the president.
“Your job will be made very difficult by the fact that you will put pressure on the Russians to stop interfering in our elections and others, while you have a president of the United States who is actively, actively trying to cloud this question and often uses his personal communication device to call it a hoax,” Sen. Murphy said. “I just don’t want us to normalize what is happening today—where our diplomats are toeing one line and the president is toeing a completely different one on his Twitter feed.”
Huntsman did not face many tough questions during his hearing Tuesday—at one point, Sen. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Huntsman discussed the nominee’s daughter’s piano career—and several senators praised his record of public service. He’s expected to sail through the confirmation process and earned the praise of many on the committee, including some Democrats. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) called Huntsman “a tremendous patriot” and encouraged his colleagues”to vote unanimously for this outstanding gentleman.”