This just in:
Top Bush Aide Dan Bartlett Resigns
Filed at 9:43 a.m. ET
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Dan Bartlett, a key member of President George W. Bush's inner circle and an aide for him going back more than 13 years, announced on Friday he is resigning as White House counselor effective July 4.
In an interview, Bartlett, who turned 36 on Friday, said he had been pondering his departure for months and decided now is the best time to get a less demanding job so he can concentrate on helping raise three children all under the age of 4.
He is the most important White House insider to leave Bush's side since the resignation last November of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Bartlett started working for Bush in October 1993 in Bush's first race for Texas governor. He stayed with him through another gubernatorial campaign and two presidential elections.
"His contribution has been immeasurable. I value his judgment and I treasure his friendship," Bush said in a statement.
"I understand his decision to make his young family his first priority. His most important job is to be a loving husband and father of three young sons. We wish him all the best," he said.
Bartlett's pending departure will follow that of some other aides such as deputy national security adviser J.D. Crouch and the National Security Council expert on Iraq and Afghanistan, Meghan O'Sullivan, who chose to leave rather than ride out the rest of the president's term, which ends in January 2009.
"It's been a hell of a ride," said Bartlett, who was at Bush's side on September 11, 2001, when al Qaeda attacks transformed Bush's presidency before his very eyes.
Bartlett said he was leaving for no other reason than to get a job in the private sector and concentrate more on his family. He has retained Washington lawyer Robert Barnett to help him in his search
After a tenure dominated by the Iraq war, and with Bush under pressure to change course, the rest of Bush's presidency could be difficult.
Asked if he had any regrets about his time in the White House, Bartlett demurred. "A lot of us will have time to look back and look at decisions. I'm not going to spend a lot of time thinking about that right now."
His wife, Allyson, had given him a nudge back when their third son was born four months ago by suggesting the baby be named "Exit Strategy."
"I figured after 13 years and a lot of experience under our belt, this was a time to turn a new chapter in my life," Bartlett said.
White House Chief of Staff Josh Bolten said he would conduct a search for a replacement to Bartlett, who has had unrivaled access to the Oval Office.
"Whenever we lost a great player someone else steps up and performs exceptionally well," Bolten said. He predicted the successor to Bartlett would have a "similar but not identical role."
Bolten said he has been impressed by the caliber of people Bush has been able to attract to government service in his waning years in office, such as Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson, and hoped to find similar talent for Bartlett's job.
He leaves without another job -
Maybe he developed some sort of conscience, or the constant projectile vomiting was wearing him out.