Huntsman faces no tough questions in confirmation hearing

Ravell Call, Deseret News

FILE – Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. answers a question during a meeting with the Deseret News and KSL editorial boards in Salt Lake City on Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017.

WASHINGTON — Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman outlined his plan to a Senate committee Tuesday for the U.S. embassy in Moscow should he be confirmed ambassador to Russia, recognizing the job won’t be “simple or easy.”

Huntsman told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee he is “fully cognizant” of the responsibilities he would assume. He said he would engage at the highest levels to the lowest tiers to represent U.S. interests. He also said he would seek out Russian people to get their perspectives on culture, religion and human rights.

The U.S. mission in Russian should be seen as beacon of hope and aspiration for its people, he said.

Huntsman didn’t face any tough questions during the hearing that lasted about 30 minutes.

Two senators — one Republican, the other Democrat — heaped praise on Huntsman in introducing him to the panel.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, noted that Huntsman, if confirmed, would be ambassador to the nation with the largest geographic footprint as well already having served in the most populous country, China.

“I think that is significant,” he told the committee.

Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.V., said Russia presents a challenge for the U.S. right now and it will take a person with “skills unlike anything we’ve ever seen before.” He said there’s only one person who could go to Russia to open a dialog and find a pathway forward.

“Jon is a tremendous patriot and tremendous American,” he said, urging his colleagues on both sides of the aisle to unanimously approve Huntsman.

The committee won’t make a decision Tuesday, but a vote could come as early as next week, then it could be weeks if not months before the full Senate confirms Huntsman. A unanimous committee vote, however, could speed things up.

Lee said he hopes it doesn’t drag on.

The hearing came at the same time President Donald Trump was making his first speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York.

Huntsman, 57, would head…

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