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Teamsters Cut Ties With Joseph diGenova, Lawyer on Trump’s Team

Dec. 11, 2020, 1:04 AM

The International Brotherhood of Teamsters has parted ways with Joseph diGenova, a former federal prosecutor who waded into political controversy as a member of President Donald Trump‘s legal team seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

In a letter Wednesday, Teamsters President James P. Hoffa said he wouldn’t reappoint diGenova to another five-year term as the union’s independent ethics officer, ending his nearly 20-year involvement with the union’s oversight efforts, which began with a probe of Hoffa’s political foe.

Instead, Hoffa selected white-collar attorney Robert Luskin of Paul Hastings LLP to replace diGenova in February, according to a letter to Luskin that the union submitted to a federal judge in New York.

Hoffa’s decision came a day after diGenova was sued by Chris Krebs—the former government cybersecurity chief who was fired by Trump last month—for saying on television that Krebs should be “taken out at dawn and shot.” diGenova was responding to a “60 Minutes” interview in which Krebs disputed Trump’s claims of election fraud.

diGenova served on a three-member oversight board of the Teamsters beginning in 2001, a role that stemmed from a mammoth racketeering case the government brought against the union in the late 1980s. The lawsuit was led by then-U.S. District Attorney for the Southern District of New York Rudolf Giuliani, who is now Trump’s personal lawyer. The suit alleged that the Teamsters had made a “devil’s pact” with organized crime, engaging in everything from embezzlement to murder.

Hours before a trial was to decide whether the government could place the union in federal trusteeship, Teamsters officials and prosecutors reached a settlement agreement, which remained in effect until this year.

Lucrative Oversight Work

The agreement subjected the union to intense government oversight for more than 30 years, convening the independent investigative panel that diGenova served on. After the Teamsters and the government reached a deal to phase out oversight in 2015, diGenova was appointed to a five-year term as a separate independent watchdog.

diGenova received at least $1.8 million for his work with the Teamsters since 2009, while his firm separately hauled in more than $3.3 million, according to Labor Department disclosures.

In a phone interview Thursday, diGenova said he doesn’t believe his involvement with Trump’s legal team influenced Hoffa’s decision, and that discussions about his replacement began months ago.

“It’s their decision, and they have complete control over it,” he said. “They’ve certainly never said anything about that to me.”

Teamsters spokesman Bret Caldwell declined to discuss the decision, saying in a written statement that diGenova will by replaced by Luskin on Feb. 17.

diGenova said he first met Hoffa decades ago through Republican social circles. The two didn’t formally work together until the late 1990s, when diGenova served as a special counsel for a congressional committee investigating Ron Carey, the reform-minded former Teamsters president who became mired in a campaign-finance scandal in a 1996 re-election bid against Hoffa.

The following year, diGenova recalled, Hoffa was one of his principal witnesses in the investigation, testifying before the panel now known as the House Committee on Education and Labor.

diGenova and his wife were paid $25,000 a month by the committee to investigate the Teamsters, according to a Washington Post report at the time. The amount so bothered Democrats that they asked to see documentation of the attorneys’ hourly billings.

A federal watchdog ultimately nullified Carey’s win over Hoffa; Hoffa won election in 1998 and has been president of the Teamsters ever since.

diGenova was named to the Teamsters oversight board in 2001 as a personal request from Hoffa, diGenova said, though the Justice Department had previously expressed interest in him joining the effort.

As for his departure from the Teamsters, diGenova said: “We’ve been discussing it for some time. They had my full support.”

To contact the reporters on this story: Ian Kullgren in Washington at ikullgren@bloombergindustry.com; Andrew Wallender in Washington at awallender@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: John Lauinger at jlauinger@bloomberglaw.com; Meghashyam Mali at mmali@bloombergindustry.com

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