US President Donald Trump has nominated Deputy Secretary of State John Joseph Sullivan as the new ambassador to Russia. If confirmed by the Senate, he will fill the spot vacated by the departure of Jon Huntsman.
Sullivan, 59, has served as deputy secretary since May 2017. He was acting secretary of state in March and April 2018, following the resignation of Rex Tillerson and the confirmation of current Secretary Mike Pompeo.
Most of his previous government experience has been in law, rather than diplomacy. Early on in his career, Sullivan clerked for a Fifth Circuit appeals judge and Supreme Court Justice David Souter, before joining President George W. Bush’s failed 1992 re-election campaign as general counsel.
He served as general counsel for the Pentagon in 2004, during the George W. Bush administration, before moving to the Department of Commerce the next year, where he stayed as general counsel and deputy secretary through 2009. During the Obama administration, Sullivan chaired the US-Iraq Business Dialogue, described as “an advisory committee on economic relations.” He also co-chaired the national security practice at Mayer Brown LLP, a private law firm in Washington, DC.
If confirmed by the Senate, Sullivan would fill the post left vacant by the departure of Jon Huntsman earlier this month. Huntsman, a former governor of Utah, announced his resignation in August, citing the needs of his “growing family and responsibilities at home.”
While Sullivan does not have much in the way of diplomatic experience, his uncle, William H. Sullivan, was the US ambassador to Laos during the Vietnam War and in Iran during the 1979 Islamic Revolution.