John Joseph Sullivan (born November 20, 1959) is an American lawyer and government official serving as the 19th and current United States Deputy Secretary of State since 2017. On April 1, 2018, Sullivan began serving as the Acting United States Secretary of State, following President Trump's dismissal of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson on March 13, 2018,[1] although Tillerson did not officially leave office until March 31, 2018. Sullivan, however, was delegated all responsibilities of the Secretary of State beginning March 13.[2][3]

Early life and education

Sullivan was born and raised in Boston, Massachusetts and graduated from Xaverian Brothers High School in 1977.[4] He then received his A.B. in history and political science from Brown University in 1981 and his J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1985. At Columbia, he was a Harlan Fiske Stone Scholar and Book Reviews Editor of the Columbia Law Review. He was a law clerk for Judge John Minor Wisdom of the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit and for United States Supreme Court Justice David H. Souter during the 1990 Term.[5]


In 1991, Sullivan served as Counselor to Assistant Attorney General J. Michael Luttig in the Office of Legal Counsel of the United States Department of Justice. The next year, he served as Deputy General Counsel of President George H. W. Bush's 1992 re-election campaign.[5]

In 1993, Sullivan joined the Washington, D.C. law firm of Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP, where he practiced Supreme Court law.[5] He was a partner in Mayer Brown’s Washington, D.C. office and "co-chair of the firm’s National Security practice". His firm biography read:

He also has served as a senior adviser to four presidential campaigns. [...] [Sullivan] has focused his practice on the growing intersection of global trade and investment and U.S. national security and foreign policies. He advises CEOs, general counsels, and other senior executives on U.S. sanctions and export controls, international trade disputes and regulation, and foreign investment in the United States, the Middle East, Russia, and other countries. His clients include major oil and gas companies, consulting, accounting, and financial services firms, petrochemical companies, and manufacturers. He has represented these clients before executive departments and agencies of the U.S. and foreign governments, as well as in litigation in the United States, where he has filed briefs and presented oral argument in courts across the country.

Sullivan's Department of Commerce portrait

The biography also discussed work on client business in Russia, Iran, Cuba and Iraq and "advising a multinational manufacturing company on security policies and risk issues in countries with a high threat of terrorism, violence, and political instability". In the Obama Administration, Sullivan was chairman of the U.S.-Iraq Business Dialogue, "an advisory committee on economic relations between the two countries".[6]

In February 2004, U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld appointed Sullivan as Deputy General Counsel of the United States Department of Defense. In this capacity, he was responsible for all litigation involving the department and for counsel on major criminal and congressional investigations. During his tenure, he was awarded the Secretary of Defense’s Medal for Exceptional Public Service.[5]

Sullivan then moved to the U.S. Department of Commerce, where he served as General Counsel. As the department’s chief legal officer and Designated Agency Ethics Official, Sullivan managed the work of over 400 lawyers in the 14 legal offices providing legal advice to all components of the department.[5]

Upon the resignation of Deputy Secretary of Commerce David Sampson, Sullivan was assigned as Acting Deputy Secretary of Commerce beginning on September 1, 2007. He was soon thereafter nominated by George W. Bush to serve in a permanent capacity, and was sworn in on March 14, 2008 after confirmation by the United States Senate. As the department’s chief operating officer, he managed a $6.8 billion budget and 38,000 employees in 13 operating units. He was also a member of President Bush's Management Council and a member of the Board of Directors of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation.[5]

Deputy Secretary of State

Sullivan being sworn in as Deputy Secretary of State by Chief Justice John Roberts.

President Donald Trump nominated Sullivan to serve as the United States Deputy Secretary of State on April 11, 2017.[7] He was confirmed as U.S. Deputy Secretary of State by the Senate on May 24, 2017 with a vote of 94–6.[8]

Personal life

Sullivan and his wife, Grace Rodriguez, have three children and live in Maryland.[5] He is the nephew of the last United States Ambassador to Iran, William H. Sullivan.[9]

From 2003 to 2008, Sullivan contributed to the campaigns of Republicans Chuck Floyd (MD-8) and Jack Ryan (IL-Senate).


  1. ^ Vitali, Ali; Mitchell, Andrea (March 13, 2018). "Trump fires Rex Tillerson, selects Mike Pompeo as new Secretary of State". NBC News. Retrieved 2018-03-13. 
  2. ^ Merica, Dan. "Trump fires Tillerson, taps Pompeo as next secretary of state – CNNPolitics". Retrieved March 13, 2018. 
  3. ^ "Deputy Secretary of State". U.S. Department of State. Retrieved 2018-03-13. 
  4. ^ "Nomination ... U.S. Department of Commerce > Biographical Information & FEC Individual Contribution Search", United States Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, 110th United States Congress, March 13, 2008.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g "Department of Commerce biography". Archived from the original on June 6, 2008. Retrieved June 6, 2008.  (public domain)
  6. ^ "John Sullivan: Partner", Retrieved April 17, 2017.
  7. ^ Reuters (April 11, 2017). "President Donald J. Trump Announces Key Administration Posts". 
  8. ^ "Senate Roll Call vote PN350". United States Senate. May 24, 2017. Retrieved May 25, 2017. 
  9. ^ Koran, Laura (May 9, 2017). "State Department nominee vows to promote human rights". CNN. 

External links

Legal offices
Preceded by
Theodore Kassinger
General Counsel of the United States Department of Commerce
Succeeded by
Lily Fu Claffee
Political offices
Preceded by
David Sampson
United States Deputy Secretary of Commerce
Succeeded by
Dennis Hightower
Preceded by
Tony Blinken
United States Deputy Secretary of State
Preceded by
Heather Higginbottom
Deputy Secretary of State for Management and Resources
Preceded by
Rex Tillerson
United States Secretary of State

Retrieved from "