Attorney General Edwin Meese III has disqualified himself from the proposed federal antiracketeering suit to attack mob influence in the Teamsters union, law enforcement sources said yesterday.
A Justice Department spokesman confirmed the report, saying Meese has recused himself from all matters involving the 1.7 million-member union because of his ties since the 1980 Reagan campaign with Teamsters President Jackie Presser.
Presser, then a Teamsters vice president, was named an economic adviser to the Reagan transition team. Meese, who headed the team, defended the appointment then as "desirable" and said of Presser: "Not only has he never been convicted, he's never been indicted, not even subpoenaed."
Government witnesses at several Mafia criminal trials have since described the union's governing board as dominated for decades by organized crime and have charged that Presser was backed for election in 1983 by the Genovese crime family of New York.
Presser is awaiting trial in Cleveland on fraud and racketeering charges, another case from which Meese disqualified himself.
Meanwhile, Justice Department criminal division lawyers prepared a massive civil suit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act that was to have been filed here by U.S. Attorney Joseph E. diGenova.
Aimed at putting the entire union under trusteeship, the litigation was ready to be filed in July, sources said, but was withheld because of the ongoing criminal trial in New York of Anthony (Fat Tony) Salerno, reputed boss of the Genovese family, and others.
About three or four weeks ago, the sources said, the department approved a request by U.S. Attorney Rudolph Giuliani of New York to shift the case there, partly on grounds that it would provide better jurisdiction over Salerno and several other proposed defendants. DiGenova reportedly consented to the shift, and New York authorities are drafting their case with a new team.