WASHINGTON — Jon Huntsman Jr. won’t be in an unfamiliar seat Tuesday when he goes before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee as the nominee for U.S. ambassador to Russia.
But with the ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election, thorny questions about the Trump administration’s relationship with Russia could make the former Utah governor a little uncomfortable.
Still, no one expects Huntsman will have trouble getting through the committee or the full Senate.
“His glide path is a smooth as could be,” said former Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz, now a Fox News contributor.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who worked as Huntsman’s general counsel in the governor’s office, will introduce his former boss at the hearing.
“Gov. Huntsman is an ambassador’s ambassador,” said Lee, who used to serve on the Foreign Relations Committee.
The tone of those anticipated hard questions and how Huntsman plans to deal with Russian President Vladimir Putin, though, could make for some compelling political theater.
But with President Donald Trump making his debut at the United Nations in a speech before the General Assembly in New York at the same time, some of the media attention could be diverted.
“I suspect Democrats will take the opportunity to dig on President Trump, but I don’t think anybody will take a true shot at Jon Huntsman,” Chaffetz said. “Mostly you’ll see grandstanding, mostly people making tough comments about Trump and Russia.”
Lee agrees, but he hopes it doesn’t come to that and looks for the hearing to be more about Huntsman’s ability and what he plans to do with the office.
“There is no reason why any other controversy surrounding Russia should have anything to do with this particular nominee,” he said, adding those concerned about U.S.-Russia relations should be anxious to confirm Huntsman.
Chaffetz, who served as Huntsman’s chief of staff in Utah, said the former governor and two-time ambassador will be ready for whatever the committee throws at him.
“He’ll be wearing his best diplomatic hat,” Chaffetz said. “I don’t think there will be anything that catches him by surprise.”
Huntsman’s name for the key diplomatic post first surfaced in March, and the White House acknowledged he was Trump’s pick, though the…