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Summers to Leave White House Post as Top Economic Advisor

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Lawrence Summers is expected to leave his post as director of President Barack Obama’s National Economic Council once the fall elections are over, according to a statement released by the White House on Tuesday. He will return to his professorship at Harvard University after a two-year stint on the Council.

Summers’ departure leaves Tim Geithner, Treasury secretary, as the only original member of the president’s economic team. Previous departures have included Christina Romer, who served as chair of the White House Council of Economic Advisors and stepped down on Sept. 3, and Peter Orszag, who was budget director and announced his intention to depart in June; he was the first member of Obama’s Cabinet to leave. Other departures have included Steve Rattner, former “car czar”; Van Jones, the “green jobs czar”; and Elizabeth Birnbaum, former director of the Minerals Management Service.

Summers, who left his post as Harvard University president to direct the Council, had served as chief economist of the World Bank in 1991; he left there for the Treasury in 1993, serving under President Bill Clinton as undersecretary for international affairs. Later he served as deputy secretary of the Treasury under Robert Rubin and then took over the top post upon Rubin’s departure. He left Treasury in 2001 to become president of Harvard, but resigned from that position in the wake of a dispute with faculty after he controversially asserted that women might not have “intrinsic aptitude” in math and science.

Obama, who in a White House statement has expressed his gratitude to Summers for his service “at a time of great peril for our country,” said he has “not made any decisions about personnel.” However, he is seen as likely to choose someone outside his administration, with some saying he should select an individual from the business world. That said, according to a Reuters report, Laura Tyson, who formerly served as an economic advisor to Clinton, is seen as a likely candidate. Jeffrey Immelt, chairman of GE, and Richard Parsons, chairman of Citigroup, are seen as possibilities from the business world.

Other changes may be afoot in Obama’s administration as well; it was reported Wednesday in Time magazine that Rahm Emanuel might be planning to step down in October for a run at the mayoral seat in Chicago.