White House Counsel Kathryn Ruemmler leaving for private practice

September 18, 2013
As White House counsel, Kathryn Ruemmler guides the president’s decisions on issues ranging from the war on terrorism to Cabinet and judicial nominations to immigration policy. (Pat Sullivan/AP )
White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler plans to leave by the end of the year to return to private practice. (Pat Sullivan/AP )

Kathryn Ruemmler, who as White House counsel has become a trusted member of President Obama's inner circle, plans to leave by the end of the year to return to private practice, a White House official confirmed Wednesday morning.

Ruemmler has told Obama she intends to leave government service and move to New York, the official said. Ruemmler has served in the administration since the start of Obama's presidency -- first as principal associate deputy attorney general, the third-ranking official at the Justice Department, and later in the White House, as deputy counsel and later counsel.

News of Ruemmler's departure was first reported Wednesday morning by Politico's Playbook.

Ruemmler wanted to leave at the end of last year but was talked out of it, according to an individual familiar with the decision who asked not to be identified because the announcement was not yet official.

“It makes sense,” the individual said. “She’s been at the White House counsel’s office for three years, and started with the administration at the beginning, in 2009.”

As White House counsel, Ruemmler advises Obama on a broad array of legal issues, from immigration policies to Cabinet and judicial nominations to his signature health care law. Ruemmler is a member of Obama's national security team and helps guide his counterterrorism decisions.

Ruemmler also serves as the legal protector of the president and his top appointees, shielding them from potential scandal. Her office has served as a response center for investigations of the White House, including the Internal Revenue Service's targeting of conservative groups and last fall's deadly attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya.

Ruemmler, 42, is regarded as a tenacious and skilled lawyer. Her White House colleagues say Obama prizes her often blunt advice, and that she and the president often engage in extended conversations about legal minutia in the Oval Office.

Ruemmler rose to prominence in the Washington legal establishment as one of three lead prosecutors in the high-profile case against Enron executives Kenneth Lay and ­Jeffrey Skilling, who were convicted on securities and wire fraud charges.

Juliet Eilperin contributed to this report.

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