Bannon backs Huntsman for ambassador post: report

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Incoming White House chief strategist Steve Bannon is backing candidates for ambassadorships that are opposed by other advisers to President-elect Donald Trump and who fall outside the far-right view for which he is known, according to a report Wednesday in The New York Times.

Bannon has spoken favorably of Jon Huntsman, the former governor of Utah who served as ambassador to China under President Obama, according to the Times. Huntsman has reportedly been suggested for ambassador to Japan.

Bannon has also backed Michele Flournoy, who was the third-highest-ranking Pentagon official under Obama, for ambassador to NATO, the newspaper reported.

Flournoy, who was widely believed to be Hillary Clinton’s choice for Defense secretary had she won, has already denied any interest in taking a role in the Trump administration.

Amid speculation that Flournoy was in the running for Trump’s deputy Defense secretary, her think tank, Center for a New American Security (CNAS), put out a statement saying she was staying put.

“Given recent media speculation, we wanted to clarify that Michele Flournoy will remain CEO of CNAS, a position in which she has exceeded our highest expectations,” Kurt Campbell, chairman of CNAS’s board of directors, said in a statement Monday.

But talk of Bannon supporting Huntsman and Flournoy seemingly continues the so-called palace intrigue that was on display in the search for secretary of State. 

Bannon encouraged Trump to meet with Mitt Romney, who was bashed by other Trump advisors publicly for his opposition to Trump during the campaign.

Huntsman’s name also came up during the talk of who would be secretary of State, before Trump ultimately named Exxon Mobile CEO Rex Tillerson.

Ambassadorships are typically given out to a mix of loyalists, donors and foreign-service professionals.

Of the ambassadors Trump has named so far, South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, picked as ambassador to the United Nations, was a strong opponent of Trump’s.

Iowa Gov. Terry Branstad, who was chosen for China, and David Friedman, who was chosen for Israel, meanwhile, are Trump loyalists.

Haley and Friedman have no diplomatic experience. Branstad, however, has extensive ties to China and considers Chinese President Xi Jinping an “old friend.”

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