Treasury Secretary John Snow Signals Departure From Bush Cabinet

Treasury Secretary John Snow, a loyal lieutenant on the White House economic team, has signaled he is ready to resign once President Bush picks a successor, administration officials and people close to Snow say.

Snow has made clear to the White House that he intends to return to the private sector, these people said. They spoke on condition of anonymity because Snow is not ready to discuss his plans publicly.

It was unclear when Snow would offer his resignation, these people said. Bush said he had heard nothing about it.

"He has not talked to me about resignation," Bush said Thursday night. "I think he's doing a fine job. After all, our economy is strong," Bush said, fielding reporters' questions in an appearance with British Prime Minister Tony Blair.

The secretary, meanwhile, does plan to attend the June 9-10 meeting in Russia of finance ministers from the world's richest countries.

Treasury Department spokesman Tony Fratto declined comment on Snow's future. "I don't speculate on personnel matters," he said.

Snow, 66, took over at the Treasury in February 2003. He replaced Paul O'Neill, whose blunt talking style came to irk the White House as well as some Republican and Democratic lawmakers in Congress.

Unlike O'Neill, Snow has not veered from the Bush economic line. Still, the White House is said to want a more effective salesman for the president's economic policies.

People inside the administration said a replacement has not been chosen.

Possible contenders who have been mentioned include Stephen Friedman, who had served as director for Bush's National Economic Council.

The speculation about Friedman, formerly chief executive at Goldman Sachs, is being driven in part by the fact that he has close ties to the president's new chief of staff, Joshua Bolten, once a Goldman Sachs executive. It was Bolten who helped recruit Friedman to serve as the head of the National Economic Council during the president's first term.

Bolten has been leading a shake-up in administration personnel since taking over last month for Andrew Card.

Another possibility for the Treasury job is Don Evans, Bush's former commerce secretary and a close friend. Evans and his wife, Susan, were spending the Memorial Day weekend with the president and first lady Laura Bush at the presidential retreat at Camp David, Md. The Evanses and the Bushes boarded a helicopter on the White House South Lawn Friday afternoon for the ride to the mountains, accompanied by Bolten and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

A close associate of Evans said the trip had been planned some time ago and Evans frequently spends time with the president at Camp David. The associate spoke on condition of anonymity because Evans didn't want to speak publicly about his plans with the president.

Also mentioned for the Treasury post was David Mulford, who was appointed by Bush to be the U.S. ambassador to India. He was undersecretary for international affairs at the Treasury Department during the administration of Bush's father.

Another person whose name has cropped up is Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez, who headed Kellogg Co., the world's largest cereal maker, before taking the helm at Commerce in 2005.

Deputy Secretary of State Robert Zoellick has made little secret that he wanted the top Treasury job, but was not expected to get it. If passed over for the promotion, Zoellick probably would leave for a job on Wall Street.

There had been earlier speculation about a number of Wall Street executives possibly taking Snow's job. However, many of those individuals indicated that they were not interested in taking the Treasury slot.