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Lawyer turns down offer at White House

Cheryl Mills, the young lawyer whose spirited defense of President Clinton wowed onlookers at his impeachment trial, has declined an offer from her boss to make history as the next White House counsel, administration officials said Sunday.

Mills would have been the first woman and first black to serve as the White House's top lawyer. She informed Clinton of her decision Friday after considering his offer for much of the summer, the officials said.

Mills has worked for Clinton since the start of his presidency, and became a central player on the team of lawyers who defended the president and Hillary Rodham Clinton during the many controversies of the last few years _ from Whitewater and fundraising to Monica Lewinsky.

"Cheryl is a wonderful lawyer and a wonderful person but I think she decided that it was time for her after 6{ years to move on. She is tired and wants to get her life centered," White House chief of staff John Podesta said.

Podesta said Mills, 34, had some private sector offers."

Mills has agreed to remain in the White House as acting counsel until a successor to Charles F.C. Ruff is named. Ruff, who served as presidential counsel during the most turbulent years of Clinton's tenure, is returning to private practice.

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