jonhuntsmanjr
Photo: Joy Lee / The Daily Pennsylvanian

Jon Huntsman, Jr., the former Utah governor, diplomat and 1987 College graduate, is President Donald Trump’s choice to be the next ambassador to Russia, according to an announcement from the White House.

Huntsman is a Penn luminary whose father’s name adorns one of the most notable sites on campus: Huntsman Hall, the Wharton School’s main building. If confirmed by the Senate, he will assume one of the most politically fraught roles in Moscow — serving as Trump’s main emissary to the Kremlin as accusations of collusion with Russia to tilt the balance of the 2016 presidential election swirl around members of Trump’s orbit.

Huntsman has previously served as ambassador to Singapore under presidents George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton and ambassador to China under President Barack Obama. In 2012, he unsuccessfully sought the Republican nomination for president.

On July 18, after the White House announced Trump’s intention to nominate Huntsman, various commentators pointed out how the likely ambassador’s first name was misspelled in an initial press release.

He was identified in a header as “Governor John Huntsman Jr.” The correct spelling of Huntsman’s first name is “Jon.”

The Jon/John distinction has tripped up other writers before. In an article in The New York Times from February 2011, Huntsman was referred to as “John.”

The press release stated that Huntsman, whose father is the namesake of Huntsman Hall, has had “a distinguished career as a politician, diplomat, and businessman.”

This White House announcement comes after months of speculation that Huntsman was being considered for the post of ambassador to Russia, despite his previous criticisms of Trump.

After initially urging Republicans to rally around Trump’s candidacy once it appeared inevitable that the real estate developer would secure the party’s nomination in spring 2016, Huntsman changed course in the fall.

Once a vulgar tape of Trump appearing to brag about committing sexual assault was reported on by the Washington Post, Huntsman called on him to drop out of the race and let then-vice presidential nominee Mike Pence replace him.

At a Penn Board of Trustees meeting weeks before the presidential election, Huntsman even joked about Trump’s standing as a candidate.

“I remember sitting in this meeting 20 years ago, and the great lament was, ‘we don’t have enough Penn people running for politics at the highest level,’” he said, according to a recording of the meeting.

The trustees and assembled guests bellowed with laughter.

Trump, for his part, tweeted an attack at Huntsman during the 2012 presidential campaign, claiming that he “gave away our country to China.”

Their relationship has strengthened in recent months and “the two have maintained a cordial relationship,” according to a Politico report from March, when it was initially reported that Huntsman was the likely choice to be Trump’s ambassador to Russia.

Huntsman’s has a long and multifaceted history with Penn. After studying at the University of Utah, he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Penn at the age of 27, having already married and raised two children.

His name only appears in Penn student directories for the 1985-1986 and 1986-1987 academic years. While at Penn, according to former active members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Huntsman attended services often and completed volunteer work with his wife.

Executive Editor Dan Spinelli and News Editor Sarah Fortinsky contributed reporting.

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