Jon Huntsman, former Utah Governor and current ambassador to Russia, told members of Congress on Tuesday that Russia is preparing to interfere in the 2018 and 2020 U.S. elections and, if they do, relations between the two countries are “done.”
The Daily Beast reports Huntsman was unequivocal about Russia’s involvement in the 2016 elections, and he’s very concerned that they could interfere with voter rolls in individual states.
“I don’t think Russia is going to quit,” Huntsman told the nine Republican and 12 Democratic members who attended the briefing, according to the source who spoke on the condition of anonymity. “Putin probably has never been stronger.”
The briefing, which lasted an hour, marked a stark contrast in tone from President Donald Trump himself, who has been notably deferential toward Russia and often unwilling to acknowledge its history of election interference. Huntsman’s remarks fit into a pattern whereby top administration officials—even cabinet secretaries—are more willing than the president to embrace tougher rhetoric on policies when it comes to Russia.
“Massive bipartisan majorities passed sanctions on Russia for election interference because everyone knows Russia did it,” the source said. “Ambassador Huntsman’s a smart, seasoned diplomat. He’s not going to tell lawmakers that up is down, even if we continue to hear bizarre denials from elsewhere in the administration.”
The report also says Huntsman was spotted at the White House later in the day, but it’s not clear whether he met with President Trump.