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Trump, Putin discuss replacing Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr.

Former Utah governor expected to announce his departure from Moscow 'soon,' his wife says

SALT LAKE CITY — In a phone call from President Donald Trump to Russian President Vladimir Putin this week, the two discussed finding a replacement for Jon Huntsman Jr., the U.S. ambassador in Russia, CNN reported.

The topic came up while the presidents were talking about wildfires in Siberia. During the short phone call, they reportedly discussed Huntsman's expected departure sometime in coming months, but did not discuss names of possible replacements.

CNN suggested that Huntsman — a former Utah governor — and his wife, Mary Kaye, have been on a "farewell tour," pointing to her social media posts "such as a Friday night with the embassy's marine guard members last month and a walk along the Moscow river."

But Mary Kaye Huntsman took issue with the cable station on social media, calling the report of such a tour "inaccurate" and "disingenuous."

READ MORE: Can Jon Huntsman, Jr. keep the art of diplomacy alive in the time of President Trump?

"I've never used my Instagram account to support CNN's completely fabricated statements of our Moscow departure and 'farewell tour' of 'several months,' when we haven't even announced our departure," she posted on Instagram Saturday.

"Our announcement will be coming soon and I'm sure we'll at that point say goodbye to many friends before we leave."

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, smiles receiving credentials from the U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr., center, during a ceremony in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on Oct. 3, 2017. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is at left. Huntsman will
Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, smiles receiving credentials from the U.S. Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr., center, during a ceremony in the Kremlin in Moscow, Russia, on Oct. 3, 2017. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is at left. Huntsman will be announcing "soon" his departure from Moscow as U.S. ambassador, according to his wife, Mary Kaye Huntsman.
Pavel Golovkin, Associated Press

Jon Huntsman will mark two years in Moscow this fall as U.S. ambassador.

"Our work here has been tough and emotionally wrenching with countless colleagues expelled under unprecedented conditions in our relationship. Farewell 'tours' don't happen here. Only a salute to the U.S. Marines as you depart," Mary Kaye Huntsman wrote.

READ MORE: Huntsman trails Utah Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox in gubernatorial poll

Some have speculated that Huntsman might be planning another run for Utah governor this fall. A source told the Deseret News in April that Huntsman was not ruling out what would be his third run for governor, after first being elected in 2004 and winning a second term four years later.

Huntsman has had no comment about the governor's race, saying in April that there is "nothing to consider until our current committment is done."

Utah political experts have said Huntsman might run for governor to help maintain his public profile once he leaves the Trump administration to position himself for possible opportunities under future presidents.

Huntsman Q&A: Huntsman Jr. opens up about the loss of his father, whether he'd ever run for president, and collusion between Trump and Russia

Having also served as U.S. ambassador to China under Democrat President Barack Obama, Huntsman could end up again in line for a high-level post no matter which party's candidate wins the election for president in 2020, experts have said.

Last fall, Huntsman told the Deseret News he had stage 1 melanoma and underwent surgery to remove cancerous moles. He'd lost his father, Jon Huntsman Sr., to cancer earlier in 2018. At the time, he said he didn't want anyone in Moscow to know about the diagnosis because he wasn't sure what they might do with that information.

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Source: Ambassador Jon Huntsman Jr. not ruling out another run for Utah governor