Trump says No. 2 State Dept. official could become next Russia envoy

Trump says No. 2 State Dept. official could become next Russia envoy
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President TrumpDonald John TrumpUSPS warns Pennsylvania mail-in ballots may not be delivered in time to be counted Michael Cohen book accuses Trump of corruption, fraud Trump requests mail-in ballot for Florida congressional primary MORE said Tuesday that he could “very well” nominate John Sullivan, the current deputy secretary of State, to replace Jon Huntsman as U.S. ambassador to Russia.

Trump described Sullivan as “very respected” and noted that Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo says he and Pentagon warned Russia against bounties on US troops in Afghanistan US blocking private charter flights to Cuba China's Confucius Institute designated as a foreign mission of Beijing MORE likes him.

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“He’s somebody that’s being put up and respected very much. Very respected,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office while meeting with Romanian President Klaus Iohannis.

When asked whether Sullivan is his choice, Trump replied: “I know that Mike Pompeo likes him very much and he’s very respected. He could very well be.”

Trump’s remarks came after The New York Times reported earlier Tuesday that he is expected to tap Sullivan for the role. A State Department spokesman declined to comment and the White House did not return a request for comment on the plans.

Sullivan was easily confirmed by the Senate as deputy secretary of State in a 94-6 vote toward the beginning of Trump’s administration. He was brought on in the No. 2 spot under then-Secretary of State Rex TillersonRex Wayne TillersonThe four China strategies Trump or Biden will need to consider Trump flails as audience dwindles and ratings plummet How the US could respond to Russia's support of the Taliban MORE, whose relationship with Trump soured after roughly a year on the job. Tillerson resigned and Trump nominated Pompeo to replace him last March.

Sullivan, a lawyer and veteran of both Bush administrations who served in roles in various government departments, would need to be confirmed by the Senate again to the new post.

Huntsman announced on Aug. 7 that he would resign as the top U.S. diplomat in Russia after two years in the Trump administration amid widening speculation that he plans to run for Utah’s governor. Huntsman is expected to leave the post in October.

Should Sullivan be nominated and confirmed for the role — which seems likely — he would take on the position at a time of considerable tensions between Washington and Moscow.

Despite Trump’s desire to broker better relations with Russian President Vladimir PutinVladimir Vladimirovich PutinRussia offered help with coronavirus vaccine, US declined: report Bill Gates: 'We'd be lucky' to have coronavirus vaccine before end of 2020 Russia says coronavirus vaccine will be ready for doctors in two weeks MORE, U.S.-Russia relations have remained icy over Moscow’s election interference, the ongoing conflict in Syria, arms control pacts and other issues of disagreement.

If Sullivan were to move to the new position, it would also open up an opportunity for Pompeo to choose his own deputy.