Jacob Jeremiah Sullivan (born November 28, 1976) is an American government official who is National Security Advisor-designate for President-elect Joe Biden’s administration. He was previously senior policy advisor to Hillary Clinton’s 2016 presidential election campaign, with expertise in foreign policy, and Deputy Chief of Staff at the Department of State. Sullivan is the Montgomery Fellow at Dartmouth College and a senior fellow and Master in Public Policy faculty member at the Carsey School of Public Policy. Sullivan was also a senior advisor to the U.S. government for the Iran nuclear negotiations and a visiting professor at Yale Law School.
Prior to teaching at Yale, Sullivan worked in the Obama administration as Deputy Assistant to the President and National Security Advisor to U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. He also served as the Director of Policy Planning at the U.S. Department of State, and as Deputy Chief of Staff to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Prior to this, he was deputy policy director on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 presidential primary campaign, and a member of the debate preparation team for Barack Obama’s general election campaign.
On November 23, 2020, President-elect Joe Biden announced that Sullivan will be appointed National Security Advisor.
Sullivan attended Southwest High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota, from which he graduated in 1994. He was a debate champion, president of the student council, and voted “most likely to succeed” in his class.
Sullivan attended Yale University, where he received a Bachelor of Arts in political science in 1998. In 2000, he graduated with an MPhil having received a Rhodes Scholarship to study international relations at the University of Oxford, and became a managing editor of the Oxford International Review. Afterwards, he returned to Yale Law School and graduated with a Juris Doctor in 2003.
At Yale, he was an editor of the Yale Law Journal and the Yale Daily News. He was a member of the Yale Debate Association, and earned a Truman Scholarship in his junior year. He also worked for Brookings Institution President Strobe Talbott at the Yale Center for the Study of Globalization.
After his studies, Sullivan clerked for Second Circuit Court of Appeals judge Guido Calabresi and Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Stephen Breyer. After the clerkships, Sullivan practiced at Faegre & Benson for several months, and taught law as an adjunct professor at the University of St. Thomas in Minneapolis.
After Faegre & Benson, he worked as chief counsel to U.S. Senator from Minnesota Amy Klobuchar, who connected him to Clinton.
In 2008, Sullivan was originally an advisor to Hillary Clinton during the primary cycle, and then to Barack Obama during the general election campaign. He prepared Clinton and Obama for debates. When Clinton became U.S. Secretary of State, Sullivan joined as her deputy chief of staff and Director of Policy Planning, and he travelled with her to 112 countries.
He became Vice President Biden’s top security aide in February 2013 after Clinton stepped down as U.S. Secretary of State. In those posts, he played a role in shaping U.S. foreign policy towards Libya, Syria, and Myanmar.
On June 20, 2014, The New York Times reported that Sullivan was leaving the administration in August 2014 to teach at Yale Law School. He is currently a nonresident Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
After his work with the Clinton campaign, Sullivan went on to join the London and New York–based Macro Advisory Partners in January 2017. Macro Advisory Partners is a geopolitical risk advisory company working with corporate clients and investors on strategy, helping them navigate the geopolitical and economic landscape.
In November 2013, the Associated Press reported that officials in the Obama administration had been in secret contact with Iranian officials throughout 2013 about the feasibility of an agreement over the Iranian nuclear program. The report stated that American officials, including U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, Senior White House Iran Advisor Puneet Talwar, and Sullivan, had secretly met with their Iranian counterparts at least five times face-to-face in Oman. Those efforts paved the way for the Geneva interim agreement on the Iranian nuclear program, known officially as the Joint Plan of Action, signed by Iran and the P5+1 countries in Geneva, Switzerland, on November 24, 2013.
Since then, Sullivan has regularly attended bilateral consultations with Iran in Geneva as a member of the U.S. delegation on the Iran nuclear negotiations.
Sullivan was the chief foreign policy adviser to Hillary Clinton. He was reported to be the only senior staffer who kept on asking if it wasn’t a good idea for her to spend more time in the Midwestern swing states as the election approached. Sullivan was prominent in many of the Podesta emails released by WikiLeaks during the 2016 US presidential election, including Sullivan questioning if Democratic primary candidate Martin O’Malley’s 100% clean energy by 2050 plan was “realistic.” After the election, he confessed to feeling “a keen sense of responsibility” for Clinton’s defeat.
On November 22, 2020, Sullivan was announced as the choice to be National Security Advisor to President-elect Joe Biden; Sullivan will take the role when Biden assumes office in January 2021.
Sullivan married Margaret Goodlander, a former senior policy advisor to Senators Joe Lieberman and John McCain and law clerk to Chief Judge Merrick Garland and Justice Stephen Breyer in June 2015.