The US ambassador to Russia, Jon Huntsman Jr., is facing calls to resign from his position after Monday’s meeting between US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
One particularly strong request came in the form of a column in a newspaper owned and published by Huntsman’s brother.
The piece opens with Salt Lake Tribune columnist Robert Gehrke pleading, “Ambassador Huntsman, you work for a pawn, not a president. It’s time to come home.” Gehrke went on to condemn Trump’s comments at the press conference and ask Huntsman to resign immediately.
After Trump and Putin met on Monday in Helsinki, Putin denied claims that Russia had interfered in the 2016 US presidential election at a press conference. Trump stood next to the Russian leader and supported Putin’s statement, which contradicted the findings of US intelligence agencies.
“There was no collusion at all,” Trump said at the press conference. “And people are being brought out to the fore. So far that I know, virtually none of it related to the campaign. And they’re going to have to try really hard to find somebody that did relate to the campaign.”
Gehrke thinks this was a big mistake. “For Trump to simply accept at face value Putin’s assertion that Russia played no part in the plot to meddle in US elections is a tragic disservice to the U.S. intelligence community, those diplomats who work in your office, and the integrity of our democracy and justice system,” he wrote.
Gehrke has a point: Just last Friday, special counsel Robert Mueller indicted 12 members of a Russian intelligence agency for election meddling. And in January 2017, a Senate intelligence report found that Putin made orders to influence the 2016 presidential election to help Trump.
The columnist also condemned Putin’s controversial leadership.
“He has butchered innocent people in Syria, fought a bloody war in Crimea and carried out assassinations in sovereign nations. And all our president can muster is a shrug before he licks Putin’s blood-soaked boot,” Gehrke continued.
Huntsman, a former Republican governor of Utah and former presidential candidate, has been the US ambassador to Russia since 2017. He also served as President Barack Obama’s ambassador to China. His brother, Paul Huntsman, bought the Salt Lake Tribune newspaper in 2016 and is currently its owner and publisher.
The ambassador’s daughter, Fox News Channel host Abby Huntsman, also criticized Trump on Twitter for his meeting with Putin:
No negotiation is worth throwing your own people and country under the bus.— Abby Huntsman (@HuntsmanAbby) July 16, 2018
John Weaver, who served as Huntsman’s campaign strategist when he ran for the 2012 presidential election, also took to Twitter to call on the ambassador to resign.
@JonHuntsman Resign, if you have any honor.— John Weaver (@JWGOP) July 16, 2018
Huntsman, for his part, has not spoken out publicly since Trump’s press conference in Helsinki, and he has given no hints that he’s thinking about resigning.
“This has to be the last straw. To remain silent and continue to serve this president would be complicity in the undoing of our nation and its status as a world leader,” Gehrke wrote in conclusion. “Come home, Mr. Huntsman. Your country needs you.”