President Obama's top lawyer at the White House is resigning to return to private practice and represent Obama as his personal attorney and as general counsel to Obama's re-election campaign.
Bob Bauer will be replaced by his top deputy, Kathy Ruemmler, a former assistant U.S. attorney best known as a lead prosecutor in the Enron fraud case.
The move, announced Thursday, means Bauer, 59, will still play a central but outside role in advising a president who is seeking re-election in a time of divided government.
The 40-year-old Ruemmler will take over the job as Obama's top in-house counsel and manager of a White House law office charged with juggling the domestic, national security and congressional oversight challenges confronting the president.
In a statement, Obama praised Bauer as a friend with exceptional judgment who will remain a close adviser. As to his new White House-based counsel, Obama said: "Kathy is an outstanding lawyer with impeccable judgment. Together, Bob and Kathy have led the White House Counsel's office, and Kathy will assure that it continues to successfully manage its wide variety of responsibilities."
Bauer has been part of Obama's circle since Obama was a freshmen senator in Washington, and now returns to the campaign counsel role he had when Obama ran in 2008. He has long been a go-to lawyer for Democrats on matters of political law and is married to Anita Dunn, a Democratic communications operative who formerly worked in Obama's White House.
Bauer will leave his White House post at the end of June. In a style typifying the low-key nature of transitions in the counsel's office, the news came in the form of a press release.
Ruemmler's fast rise in the legal community was cemented by her role in the successful federal prosecution of the Enron executives whose company imploded because of accounting tricks and shady business deals that cost people thousands of jobs and tens of billions in stock value. She was the co-lead prosecutor and delivered the closing argument on behalf of the government in the trial, and later won the Justice Department's highest award for her work in the Enron investigation.
Ruemmler (pronounced RUHM'-luhr) has been the primary deputy counsel at the White House since January 2010.
She joined the Obama's administration in 2009 as the principal associate deputy attorney general at the Justice Department. Before that, she was a litigation partner at Latham & Watkins in Washington from 2007 to 2009, and an assistant U.S. attorney in the District of Columbia from 2001 to 2007. Ruemmler worked for Clinton's White House counsel's office from 2000 to 2001 during an embattled time of congressional investigations of the Democratic president at the end of his second term.
Ruemmler will be Obama's third White House counsel. His first, Greg Craig, resigned in 2009 amid questions over his handling of the president's promised closure of the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, military prison, which remains open despite that pledge.