Huntsman Jr: Putin likely ‘joyful’ about Ukraine theory

Local News

Republican ex-Russia ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. speaks at the Hinckley Institute of Politics Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019, in Salt Lake City. President Donald Trump’s former ambassador to Russia said Vladimir Putin is likely “joyful” about the renewed prominence of a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine was responsible for meddling in the 2016 election, which experts consider Russian disinformation. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — President Donald Trump’s former ambassador to Russia said Vladimir Putin is likely “joyful” about the renewed prominence of a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine was responsible for meddling in the 2016 election, which experts consider Russian disinformation.

“He’s probably joyful that he has the world talking about something he may have been behind,” Jon Huntsman Jr. said Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press. “That’s the way they operate in Moscow, to try to sow seeds of discontent between the United States and Kyiv.”

Huntsman is running for his old job as Utah governor after leaving the Moscow post, which he said likely had him spending as much time with the Russian president as any other American.

Trump continues to say Ukraine was behind interference in the 2016 election as he faces an impeachment inquiry related to allegations he pressured the country into investigating his political rivals. The FBI has confirmed Russia was behind the meddling.

The Republican agreed that there’s “no question” Russia meddled while saying he didn’t have direct access to all information on Ukraine. It could happen again in 2020, from Russia or a handful of players, and the U.S. may not be prepared.

“Let’s just say the capabilities are there to wreak havoc on our most prized institution of democracy,” he said. “We need to be prepared for it, and I don’t know if we are.”

He said he’s especially concerned about state and local election systems, where officials might not have the resources or information to know about threats.

The moderate conservative hasn’t quite endorsed re-election for Trump, who is less popular in Utah than in many other conservative states, but said he would back the GOP nominee, likely the president.

“He has maintained a strong economy and we are not at war … we hear a lot about the downside. I think the election will focus more on the upside,” he said, adding that an election is better than impeachment on deciding whether the president should stay in office.

As he looks for a comeback in state politics, Huntsman downplayed the idea that becoming Utah governor again would be a platform between higher-profile roles, saying he’d serve out a four-year term if elected.

First elected in 2004, he was a popular leader who oversaw a period of economic growth and tax reform and had recently won a second term when he stepped down in 2009 to serve as U.S. ambassador to China in the Obama administration.

Huntsman mounted a short-lived run for president during the 2012 cycle, and five years later went abroad again as ambassador to Russia. Now, Huntsman said he’s ready to return to Utah.

“If I wanted to be secretary of state, I would have stayed where I was,” he said. “No call is going to take me away from doing the work of the people here in Utah.”’

WHAT OTHERS ARE READING:

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

ABC4 PODCASTS

More Podcasts
Inside Utah Politics Logo

Glen Mills

Chief Political Correspondent

 Glen is honored to be delivering the news of the day every weeknight at 5, 6, and 10 in his home state. He is an award-winning veteran journalist, who joined the ABC4 News team as a weekend anchor in June 2013. Over the years, he held various positions at the station as he worked his way up to the main anchor chair. He also serves as our Senior Political Correspondent and hosts Inside Utah Politics, which airs every Sunday. The Utah Headliners Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists has recognized Glen as the best government and military television reporter in the state. Before returning home to Utah, he spent 11 1/2 years developing his journalism skills in other states. He held various on-air and management positions at KPVI in Pocatello, Idaho, WGBA in Green Bay, Wisconsin, and KKCO in Grand Junction, Colorado during that time. Read More...