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President Barack 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 lead prosecutor in the Enron fraud case.

The move means that 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.

Meanwhile, 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 advisor. 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.

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