Senate confirms Huntsman as ambassador to Russia

FILE PHOTO - Former Gov. Jon Huntsman (R-UT) testifies before a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on his nomination to be ambassador to Russia on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., September 19, 2017. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate confirmed former Utah governor Jon Huntsman on Thursday to be President Donald Trump’s ambassador to Russia, sending an experienced diplomat to fill the crucial post in Moscow.

The Senate confirmed Huntsman, who also served as ambassador to China under former Democratic President Barack Obama, by voice vote. Huntsman served as ambassador to Singapore under former Republican President George H.W. Bush.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee had approved Huntsman unanimously earlier this week, as members from both parties praised his qualifications and experience.

The Senate also confirmed three other diplomatic positions by voice vote: John Bass, currently the U.S. ambassador to Turkey, to be envoy to Afghanistan; career diplomat Justin Siberell to be ambassador to Bahrain and Wess Mitchell, a think-tank founder, to be Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.

Huntsman takes on the post in Moscow as congressional committees and special counsel Robert Mueller investigate allegations that Russia sought to influence the 2016 U.S. presidential election on Trump’s behalf, as well as potential collusion with Moscow by Trump associates.

Moscow denies such activity and Trump dismisses any talk of collusion.

Huntsman said at his confirmation hearing that there was no question Russia interfered during the 2016 campaign.

Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by James Dalgleish