Reports: Jon Huntsman accepts offer as Russia ambassador

Jon Huntsman Jr., the former Utah governor and ambassador to China, has accepted the Trump administration's offer to serve as ambassador to Russia, reports say.

The former presidential candidate would have to be confirmed by the Senate. If confirmed, he would become Washington's envoy in Moscow during a time of strained relations between the two countries not seen since the Cold War. He would also be serving an administration dogged by allegations of impropriety in its past relationship with Russia.

Several senior administration officials tell CNN that the moderate GOP politician has nonetheless accepted the offer; he had been previously been discussed as a possible deputy secretary of state, and before Trump's inauguration, as secretary of state.

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One senior administration official told CNN that Huntsman was selected because he is a "tough" and "brilliant guy," with an understanding of the president's goals.

President Donald Trump and Huntsman have had their differences before, however.

Following the October release of the 2005 Access Hollywood tape featuring Trump using sexually derogatory language about women, Huntsman said that the "campaign cycle has been nothing but a race to the bottom," and that Trump should step aside for Mike Pence, now vice president, to lead ticket.

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Trump, who as a private citizen was a frequent China critic, attacked Huntsman when he ran for president in 2011 and 2012, calling him a "lightweight" and "weak," and argued that China "did a major number on us" during his "reign" as ambassador to Beijing.

"Easy pickens!" the future president remarked on Twitter in 2012.

Huntsman and Trump buried their differences during the transition, an administration official told the Associated Press. In December, it was reported that Huntsman had gained the respect and favor of White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon.

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