White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler will leave the administration in mid-May, senior administration officials told The New York Times, months after the president’s top lawyer had expected to leave the White House.
Ruemmler has repeatedly signaled her intention to leave the powerful position, only to be persuaded by the president and other senior administration officials to stay.
But, according to the Times, Ruemmler is actually leaving this time, with an unidentified successor selected and undergoing vetting.
Late last month, Legal Times said white-collar defense lawyer W. Neil Eggleston, a former deputy White House counsel and a partner at Kirkland and Ellis, was under consideration for the job. Two other lawyers, former Associate Attorney General Thomas Perrelli and former Biden chief of staff Ronald Klain, are also reportedly under consideration.
A former prosecutor, Ruemmler has been a top player in developing administration policy on issues ranging from immigration policy to the war on terror.
She came under particular scrutiny last year, as the White House juggled a series of controversies. Each time, she played a central role in the administration's response.
When an IRS audit found the tax collection agency had been targeting conservative political groups, it was Ruemmler's decision not to tell the president about the findings in an attempt to shield Obama from charges he interfered in the investigation.
She also advised the president to resist congressional demands to release draft talking points following the 2012 attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, infuriating congressional Republicans.
In 2011, Ruemmler also provoked congressional ire when she sent a letter to the House Energy and Commerce Committee flatly stating there was no evidence the White House helped failed green energy company Solyndra win a government loan on behalf of a campaign donor.
Ruemmler also advised the president against disclosing details of the administration's drone program, including the targeted killing of American citizen and al Qaeda leader Anwar al-Awlaki. At the time, Ruemmler cautioned that disclosures would weaken the government's position in pending legislation by civil rights groups and journalists seeking more information about drone strikes.
President Obama did eventually disclose al-Awlaki's killing, as well as the legal justification and procedures for drone strikes.
More recently, Ruemmler played a role in attempting to mediate a dispute between the CIA and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who has accused the spy agency of removing documents from a computer used by congressional investigators examining the CIA’s torture practices.
And Ruemmler’s office last week contacted Samsung to protest the cellphone manufacturer’s promotional stunt in which Red Sox slugger David Ortiz took a “selfie” with the president.
Ruemmler was also the one who informed President Obama and his then-chief of staff Jack Lew that his signature healthcare law had been upheld by the Supreme Court in a ruling last June.