Justice Officials Agree to Help in Senate Presser Probe
WASHINGTON (AP) _ Justice Department and FBI officials offered limited cooperation Wednesday with the Senate investigation into their decision not to prosecute Teamster president Jackie Presser, government sources said.
The sources, who spoke on condition of not being identified by name, said that Deputy Attorney General Lowell Jensen and FBI Director William H. Webster met on Capitol Hill with Sens. William V. Roth Jr., R-Del., and Sam Nunn, D- Ga., of the Senate Permanent Investigations Subcommittee. Roth is chairman of the panel and Nunn its ranking minority member.
The department’s degree of cooperation with the subcommittee was in doubt because Justice officials have always been reluctant to tell congressional committees about law enforcement sources and informants for fear that delicate and sometimes life-threatening information may be leaked.
This reluctance sometimes has triggered several bitter battles between the department and the Hill, even between Justice officials and congressmen of the same political party.
Such fears were a factor in this case because, according to government sources, Justice officials decided last month not to prosecute Presser because of the nature of a ″source″ relationship he had with the FBI.
Justice field prosecutors and Labor Department investigators in Cleveland had recommended the president of the powerful 1.7-million member union be prosecuted for an alleged payroll padding scheme at his hometown Teamster Local 507 there.
The sources said that Jensen and Webster sought assurances from the senators that any sensitive material made available by the department not be leaked. Shortly thereafter, the subcommittee staff was admonished against leaks.
Aides to the two senators and spokesmen at the Justice Department and the FBI declined to acknowledge publicly that the meeting had occurred or confirm what was discussed.
But one source, speaking on condition he not be identified, said ″it would be fair″ to characterize the position taken by Jensen and Webster as ″one of limited cooperation.″ Another said ″the subcommittee’s investigation is continuing, and it would be improper to say the department is stonewalling.″
It was not clear, however, that the possibility of future clashes over information had been entirely laid to rest.
Meantime, the Justice Department attorney who made the decision not to prosecute the case headed back to Washington after two days in Cleveland explaining his decision to a special grand jury which has investigated the case for nearly three years.
David Margolis, who heads the department’s organized crime section, and Assistant FBI Director Floyd I. Clarke, head of the bureau’s criminal investigation division, had flown to Cleveland on Tuesday for that purpose.
Sources described their trip as a key step in the process of closing down the grand jury investigation.
Justice sources said the decision to drop the Presser case was based on the belated understanding by federal prosecutors that Presser had a ″source″ relationship with the FBI.
Written Justice Department guidelines allow FBI informants to participate in non-violent criminal activity if it is necessary to further the investigation and prosecution of criminal activity.
The Los Angeles Times has reported that Presser was given authorization to participate in the payroll padding scheme at his hometown Teamster Local 507 in Cleveland. The paper said this was part of an FBI effort to snare organized crime figures, but that federal prosecutors investigating the scheme along with Labor Department investigators did not fully realize the relationship between Presser and the FBI until last month.
Presser’s attorney, Frank Climaco, has denied that Presser was an FBI informant.