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Sources: Treasury secretary's resignation near

White House looking for 'acceptable alternative,' they tell CNN

From Suzanne Malveaux
CNN Washington Bureau

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John Snow has headed up the Treasury Department since February 2003.

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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Administration officials and Republican insiders said Friday that Treasury Secretary John Snow's resignation announcement is imminent -- a matter of weeks or even days.

Treasury Department spokesman Tony Fratto refused to "comment or speculate on personnel issues," and White House press secretary Tony Snow would say only that President Bush is the one who makes personnel announcements.

But several GOP sources, including some former White House officials, said John Snow has told several White House officials he intends to resign. However, they said, Snow has not spoken to Bush about it.

At a news conference Thursday night, Bush -- asked whether Snow had given him "any indication that he intends to leave his job any time soon" -- said, "No, he has not talked to me about resignation. I think he's doing a fine job. After all, our economy is, it's strong. ... He's done a fine job."

But several current and past administration officials have said the president has been ready to replace Snow for the past year. They said the White House has been searching for an "acceptable alternative" but has had difficulty getting someone to accept the position.

In January, CNN confirmed that one of those who had refused the job was Time Warner CEO Dick Parsons.

A former White House official in frequent contact with Snow said that in December the secretary indicated he wanted to leave in early spring, though he agreed to stay until the White House found a replacement.

It is not clear whether Snow has set a timetable for his departure, sources said, or whether he is trying to nudge the president along to find a replacement. Sources would not confirm a Washington Post report that Snow's last day would be July 3.

Snow is due to leave June 8 for the G8 finance ministers summit in St. Petersburg, Russia. Sources said it is likely he would want to be in Washington, standing next to the president, when he announces his resignation, meaning that if he plans to make the announcement soon it would be either in the 10 days after the Memorial Day weekend and before the summit, or soon after he returns from the summit June 11.

Officials told CNN they do not feel it would weaken his position during the summit if his resignation were announced beforehand.

Possible replacement candidates

Several sources gave CNN the following assessments on people who have been mentioned as possible replacements for Snow:

  • Stephen Friedman, the president's former chief economic adviser: a real possibility. He's available, and Bush likes him. He is a former Goldman Sachs chief executive.
  • Commerce Secretary Carlos Gutierrez: chances unknown. His name has been floated for several months.
  • Don Evans, former commerce secretary: not likely. Although he's very close to Bush, and his name is often mentioned, no one has reached out to him, the sources said.
  • David Mulford, ambassador to India: not likely. He was once considered high on the list, but some of the sources said they believe that was largely through self-promotion. He is a former treasury undersecretary.
  • Robert Kimmitt, Snow's deputy: not likely. The Dubai Ports World deal, which was initially approved by the committee he heads, damaged his prospects.
  • Robert Zoellick, deputy secretary of state: not happening. He wanted the job, and it has long been known he would resign if he didn't get it, sources said. They said he has indicated to colleagues during the past several weeks that he intends to resign and go back to work in the private sector. He is a former U.S. trade representative.
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