October 24, 2014 / 6:32 PM / 5 years ago

White House ex-counsel now off of Attorney General list

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Former White House counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, a leading candidate in President Barack Obama’s search for a new U.S. attorney general, has pulled out of consideration for the nomination, a White House official said on Friday.

Kathryn Ruemmler, deputy director of the Enron Task Force arrives at Federal court in Houston where she will lead off the prosecution team's closing arguments in the fraud and conspiracy trial of former Enron executives Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling May 15, 2006. REUTERS/Richard Carson

Ruemmler, who informed Obama in a phone call on Wednesday, faced the possibility of a difficult Senate confirmation battle over her involvement in a host of White House issues that stirred controversy in politically polarized Washington.

Obama, who thinks highly of Ruemmler, had approached the Washington lawyer to see if he could put her on his shortlist for replacing Holder, who has announced he will leave his post when a successor is found.

“Kathy took this step this week on her own volition,” the White House official said.

Ruemmler declined to comment.

Some Republican lawmakers have raised questions about an internal White House investigation led by Ruemmler into an April 2012 Secret Service prostitution scandal in Cartagena, Colombia.

During her tenure as the top White House lawyer, she was also involved in a variety of other issues that became controversial, such as a scandal involving the Internal Revenue Service and the deaths of three Americans at a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya.

“I believe that there was a perception that the confirmation difficulties might have been insurmountable,” said a former administration official familiar with the situation.

U.S. Solicitor General Don Verrilli, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District Loretta Lynch and Labor Secretary Tom Perez are among the other candidates on Obama’s list for the job.

Holder announced his decision to step down on Sept. 25. Obama will not announce a nominee until after the Nov. 4 elections, a delay sought by some Senate Democrats who wanted to avoid another controversy ahead of the vote.

“Once the president has identified a candidate, we will build a confirmation strategy around the nominee and that includes questions of timing,” the official said.

White House chief of staff Denis McDonough heaped praise on Ruemmler in comments released by the White House, saying she remains a trusted adviser to the president and is “as selfless as they come.”

Additional reporting by Julia Edwards; Editing by Mohammad Zargham and Andre Grenon

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