Trump names John Sullivan as his pick for U.S. ambassador to Russia

Oct 11 (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump said on Friday he will nominate U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan to be the U.S. ambassador to Russia.

If confirmed by the Senate, Sullivan would be the top U.S. diplomat in Russia at a particularly challenging time for Trump's presidency, which is facing an impeachment inquiry after Trump pressed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate his domestic political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden.

Trump had said in August he was considering Sullivan for the envoy job. Sullivan had also been under consideration to be Trump's national security adviser, a role that ultimately ended up going to Robert O'Brien, the former U.S. special envoy for hostage affairs.

Sullivan will replace Jon Huntsman, who resigned in August after two years in the post, amid speculation that he will run for Utah governor.

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John Sullivan, U.S. ambassador to Russia and former deputy secretary of state
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John Sullivan, U.S. ambassador to Russia and former deputy secretary of state
BOGOTA, COLOMBIA - SEPTEMBER 03: John J. Sullivan, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State speaks during their visit with Ivanka Trump (not seen), daughter of U.S. President Donald Trump and his adviser, to the General Santander National Police Academy in Bogota, Colombia in Bogota, Colombia on September 03, 2019. Colombian Vice President Marta Lucía Ramírez and Ivanka Trump meet with approximately 40 female police cadets who receive scholarships sponsored by the US Embassy in Bogotá for International Narcotics Affairs and Application of the Law (INL). (Photo by Juancho Torres/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)
Ivanka Trump, advisor and daughter of US President Donald Trump(R), and US Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan arrive to a ceremony with Colombian women in Bogota on September 3, 2019. - Ivanka Trump is visiting Colombia to strengthen trade relations between the two nations and accompany women's empowerment programs. (Photo by RAUL ARBOLEDA / AFP) (Photo credit should read RAUL ARBOLEDA/AFP/Getty Images)
US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan (L), flanked by Admiral Craig Faller, who leads the US Southern Command, pose as they speak to a group of reporters in the Southcom headquarters in Miami, on April 12, 2019. (Photo by Leila MACOR / AFP) (Photo credit should read LEILA MACOR/AFP/Getty Images)
US Deputy State Secretary John J Sullivan attends the round table during the Foreign ministers of G7 nations meeting in Dinard, on April 5, 2019, to prepare the G7 Summit in Biarritz which will take place from August 25 to 27, 2019. (Photo by THIBAULT VANDERMERSCH / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read THIBAULT VANDERMERSCH/AFP/Getty Images)
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian greets US Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan (R) during the welcoming ceremony of the Foreign ministers of G7 nations in Dinard, on April 5, 2019 during a meeting to prepare the G7 Summit in Biarritz which will take place from August 25 to 27, 2019. (Photo by STEPHANE MAHE / POOL / AFP) (Photo credit should read STEPHANE MAHE/AFP/Getty Images)
US Deputy Secretary of State John J. Sullivan (C) shakes hands with Britain's Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt next to France's Foreign minister Jean-Yves Le Drian before a family picture of the Foreign ministers of G7 nations in Dinard, on April 5, 2019 during a meeting to prepare the G7 Summit in Biarritz which will take place from August 25 to 27, 2019. (Photo by Damien MEYER / AFP) (Photo credit should read DAMIEN MEYER/AFP/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 12: U.S. President Donald Trump (R) reaches over Deputy Secretary of State John Sullivan to shake hands with acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker during a meeting of Trump's cabinet in the Cabinet Room at the White House February 12, 2019 in Washington, DC. Trump said he was not happy about the compromise legislation agreed to by Republicans and Democrats that would prevent a new partial federal government shutdown but said he would accept the deal. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Sullivan has been a career U.S. diplomat since 1990, with posts in Ukraine, the U.S. mission to the European Union, South Korea and Honduras.

Moscow has come under fire from Washington most recently because U.S. intelligence agencies concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential elections. Russia has denied wrongdoing.

(Reporting by Makini Brice Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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