Jack Goldsmith on 'In Hoffas Shadow'
O'Brien versus the United States was my stepfather and Hoffa versus United States was awful and it turned out that these were to somewhat obscure opinions from the nineteen sixties that had in fact vindicated claims behalf and O'Brien that the governor especially the O'Brien case my stepfather that the Justice Department had actually overstepped and engage in unlawful surveillance and this was something of a famous case back in the sixties and I was amazed when I read it for so many different reasons because it just brought a completely different part of my life is stressful period when I was a young man into the store the Justice Department and it also made me realize my stepfather he had always told me about Justice Department malfeasance and how he had this famous case in the Supreme Court. I never I believed I'm Jacob Schultz and this is the law fair podcasts October fifth two thousand nineteen in nineteen seventy five Labor abry union leader an American icon. Jimmy Hoffa went missing forty four years after HOFFA's disappearance. The crime remains one of America's greatest unsolved mysteries. One of those frequently considered a suspect in Hoffa's murder is Chuckie O'Brien Hoffa's longtime right him O'Brien also happens to be the stepfather other of l'affaire co-founder and Harvard Law Professor Jack Goldsmith in his new book in Hoffa Shadow Goldsmith details own rigorous investigation office disappearance and explains why the long held assumption of Chunkys role in Hoffa's death misguided yet. The book is more than a murder mystery in it. Goldsmith also reflects on the evolution of his own relationship with his stepfather. At the Texas Tribune Festival Benjamin would have sat down with Goldsmith to discuss his new book look how he came to write it and his relationship with Chucky. It's the law podcast episode four Fifty Eight Jack Goldsmith on in Hoffitz shadow so Jack I want to start with a the opening anecdote of the book which kind of connects the book to a lot of the themes themes that we work on at law fair how did working on the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping wiretapping program bring you to reevaluate your relationship with your stepfather and launch a project that ended up with the book about whether or not he was involved in the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa good. Thanks for your kind words about the book so before I tell the opening anecdote my stepfather person who became my stepfather when I was twelve years old six weeks before to be Hoffa disappeared as a man named Charles Chuckie not O'Brien and he adopted me a the next year but he became my father about six providence robin disappeared off his right hand man and his closest aide for Twenty Years Hoffa. He knew Hoffa since he was a boy. This is the first week of the disappearance my my stepfather was the leading suspect in the person that was thought to have picked up Hoffa and driven him to his killers so I grew up in the Hoffa Maelstrom and that's the background to the event you asked me about which which is flash forward thirty almost thirty years later and I am a senior official in the Justice Department ahead of the Office of Legal Counsel Council and I had been in the job about three months and I was working on as Ben says President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program which was full of legal problems and it was an extremely stressful moment because I was trying to figure out whether the program could continue whether it would have to be pulled back. Jack was deemed to be a very vital program at the time the threat reports were off the radar screens they hadn't been since nine eleven and so. I was torn between trying to put this program on a sounder legal basis and worried that if it had to pull back it was going to harm our effort in preventing terrorist events and I was sitting in the Justice Department late one night rather stressed out and tired and I was reading how to stack a fourth amendment opinions on my desk because I was trying to learn about the fourth amendment I actually wasn't an expert on the Fourth Amendment when I began this job so to understand the program I had to understand the fourth amendment right which is the main constitutional provisions that govern surveillance in this country and I was reading this opinion called Burger a late nineteen sixty s opinion and I was retired reading these opinions and this opinion and out came to citations O'Brien versus United States auto versus the United States and I hadn't thought about got my stepfather that much while I was there but he was always in the back of my mind but O'Brien versus the United States was my stepfather and half versus United States was off and it turned out these were to somewhat obscure opinions from the nineteen sixties that had in fact vindicated claims by half and O'Brien that the governor especially the O'Brien Brian Case my stepfather that the Justice Department had actually overstepped and engaged in unlawful surveillance and this was something of a famous case back in the sixties days and I was amazed when I read it for so many different reasons because it just brought a completely different part of my life is stressful period when I was young man into the sixth took store the Justice Department and it also made me realize my stepfather who's had very different outlook can educational background than I do. He had always told me about about Justice Department malfeasance how he had this famous case in the Supreme Court. I never believed it wasn't a famous case but there was a case so anyway I stumbled onto this case. I stumbled onto and it started me thinking Donna process that led me to reconsider him. He and I had twenty years earlier a I'd basically cut him out of my life. Twenty years earlier mostly for selfish reasons and it started a process that ended in this book that was fifteen years ago the ended in this book and that's how the process started all right so there's a lot in there yeah. Let's let's UNPACK. This was also around the time that we I met and when you and I first met as you describe you had a very different attitude toward chucking than you do now and and you had cut him out of your life and I remember I really remember vividly when we first talked about chucky. You described him mm-hmm as a really bad guy. I think the words you used where he's he was a mob mob mob dub teamster. I don't think he was actually likely we involved with the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa and then you pause and said because Jimmy Hoffa was basically as adopted dad and he may have in his real father and but he was a really bad guy and then you told me this story where when you had been a teenager when you'd kind of acted did up he threw you up against a wall and said I've killed guys for less than that. I had no doubt that he meant that literally so in the book number one you made clear that Jimmy Hoffa was not in fact his father you also know that when I started the book right a lot of research search so you also make clear that you actually idolized him as a teenager you were and you were very close house and you paint him in this very loving way that does not yet he is mobbed up teamster guy in fact we'll get to that in a little while but you paint him with enormous sympathy and so. I'm interested in the emotional trajectory on your part between being a a kid who this guy marries your mom and becomes your kind of idol to your repudiation of him. You changed your name to avoid Loyd his name to this reconciliation that brings you back to this very warm relationship with him great so it happened in stages. idolize. Jason was a teenager as I said he came into my life and I was twelve years old at that point my I had a stepfather a biological father neither of which were good fathers they were my biological father was quite bad. Father never really had a male fatherly figure in my life and Chucky as I call him now or sometimes Allen pappy. That's another story. He came into my life at a time that was six weeks after they got married. It was the Hoffa disappearance just developed our life but during all of that he was just an extraordinary father and he was extraordinary father because he showered live on me and my brothers love and attention and he did everything with us and he looked out for us and he taught us right from wrong and a very serious way even though he had trouble with it in his life and I just lapped up the male attention and his strength and his love my mom was very ill so during my teenage years I just thought he was the greatest person ever lived and I completely absorbed values. I love the teamsters as union. I thought they were the greatest thing and the mobsters that he was close to who were my uncles uncle. Tony Jack Loney uncle Tony Provenzano people that we used to hang out with guys I mean I really admire them looked up to them and I basically bought his story that Mafias kind of Bologna. I wasn't sure if that was right or wrong but I didn't worry about it. The government is terrible thing that they've constantly breaking the law and that was my worldview up through college and it was the time during which I just we're very close in college. I started to rethink all this. I read some books about the disappearance it turned out that he had this ballot and criminal past which I hadn't really paid attention to her. It didn't know about it turned out that a re- bowman came one day and violently took what my car that he had given me because he had not made payments on it and that kind of scared me. I started thinking about my career. Got The L. Law School and I started to basically weekly things I used to idolize. I became embarrassed about unafraid about then during law school several years later. I essentially completed this process process of basically cutting him out of my life at a time when I was thinking I wanna work in Washington. I want to be a lawyer might WANNA work in the government. It's not GonNa be good for my career to be associated with these mobsters and my stepfather all right but if so that's a super harsh kind of retroactive proactive self critical if we had talked to Jack Goldsmith Yale Law students and everything is the fault of the law school ultimately but but it and if we had had this sort of the same conversation at the time you were changing your name. What was the version of it that you would have told them so? I changed my the name after college so that was a very painful event for him and I discussed that in the book and we exchanged some amazing letters retrospect but in here's here's I was thinking about mad at the time at the at the time especially when I was at Yale and studying law and think about my career I didn't tell myself I told myself a little bit part of my thinking was I had this trajectory and I don't want to be associated with him. I WanNa have my life and I don't want it to be harmed because of my situation with him but it was more than that also had convinced myself that he was a bad person. I convince myself that he had done criminal acts. I had convinced myself that he wasn't reliable. These are true. He what he had done come relax he wasn't reliable sometimes and so. I just basically painting with a broad brush that he was a bad person and that I was justified in in in distancing agency myself from him all right so now fast forward another twenty years and we're back in the Justice Department in what I think got can safely say is probably the most professionally stressful situation you've ever dealt with which is March of two thousand four in a short space of time. The Byu withdrew Moro Elsie memo's than probably a lot of a lot of the rest of O. Eil C. had ever ever withdrawn and point at least to that point and you were told that this would endanger through the national security of the United States if you did this and you did it anyway and somehow this process causes you or triggers the beginning of a kind of revisitation of Anna. Maybe a sense of guilt about how you had engaged with with chucky causes. A certain movement went toward reconciliation just house about that yeah. A couple of things happened. A lot of things were happening at once so it was a very stressful period it was the most stressful stressful period in my life by far and it was a searing time and I started to think about a lot of foundational things in my life. Chucky had always told me about inside the Justice Department how they had their own rules and how enforcing the law they sometimes cut corners the law and there I was after looking at his opinion of his and thinking about this for six months there I was knee-deep in exactly what he described me as a teenager major which I had dismissed at the time as you know the ramblings of a basically a criminal guy who was trying to justify life. I didn't believe him and there I was living exactly in a very concrete way. It wasn't the same situation as he went through in the fifties and sixties but living through what he had described that led me. I think just basically think well. Maybe I didn't know as much as I got I did. When I renounced him. I started to realize here I was at the Pinnacle of professional success at least in the government and I only got this job. I should add because I had renounced him. I had a very high level security clearances and it became very clear during my security clearance process when they figured out that my stepfather was the leading suspect in the Hoffa crime and that grown up with mobsters and it's not a great profile to get security class and it was only because I had renounced him twenty years ago and made that clear that I got these differences and there I had run out seven. I got there only because I had renounced then it turns out he was kind of write about several things so that whole process caused me to rethink I had recently had I had my first child and then my second child had two young children and that it combined with these other things more than anything caused me to think and maybe realize how much which pain I have caused him. My mother always told me that I caused him pain like cutting him out of my life a letter. He wrote me make clear that. I caused him pain by cutting him out of my life. They really didn't appreciate it until I have my own children and started to identify with how I would feel my children did that to me and I also started to recollect that which I forgotten atten which was how what an extraordinary father he was at a time in my life and I was very vulnerable and that I wouldn't have been where I was had been so all of these things led me to over the course of two thousand and four I think about it talked to my wife about it and we reconciled at the end of that year so before we get to the the the meat of the question. which is you know did my Stepdad Kill Jimmy Hoffa? Let's I wanNA talk about the portrayal trail in the book of the Institution of the Justice Department and the institution of the FBI which are kind of separate institutions and kind of one institution this this is a portrait that is just astonishingly rich and astonishingly mixed on the one hand the bureau is engaged in all kinds of legal activity and this is the sort of heyday of the misconduct and in wiretapping and the like on the other hand some of them incredibly sympathetic people that you develop really deep relationships with that is reflected in this book are the the FBI agents who conducted the early investigation of Chuckie O'Brien and weirdly. He develops kind of quite cordial with some of them so all of this happens after you've been a senior official at the Justice Department. There's one point where you're asking Jim Coney for advice vice. This is before he becomes. FBI Director about how to interact so how did you come away from this seeing the FBI and the justice assist departments so that's a great question. It's hard to answer because it's it's a complicated anthro try not to take too long. Essentially is you're talking about. In the fifties and sixties that was the height of you talked about illegal wiretapping most of what the book is not wiretapping but bugging the placement of microphones in a room and this was a technique that was much more clearly unlawful than the wiretapping at the time and it was in widespread use and the government knew it was unlawful awful and because it was secretly kept doing it and they did it a lot in a lot of ways that picked up chucky and his mother and I have a chapter about what they learned in how brilliant pretty awful in a concrete way the surveillance was so that picture of the Justice Department in the fifties and sixties prior to fundamental reforms in the seventies is one that is extremely extremely unattractive and it's basically example of self serving this and legal interpretation and basically by laying the law and getting away with it and no one was really ever held accountable. I'm for that way before it's so before you turn to the sort of more flattering side. I want to focus on one individual who you really spend some time on as as a villain but you you really paints a very unflattering portrait of him and that is Robert Kennedy who you know a lot of people regard as a hero in this story he is extraordinarily unattractive and unappealing before you go before we go to sort of more attractive inside the Justice Department talking about bobby sure so bobby. Kennedy plays a large role in two chapters in the book he plays a central role because he had an historic vendetta against Jimmy Hoffa in the late fifties when he was a young attorney working for a Congressional Committee that was looking Senate committee that was looking Labor racketeering. He was the lead investigator and the thing he was investigating. Jimmy Hoffa the mob labor racketeering there was a lot of horrible things going going on and they should have been investigating and Kennedy actually uncovered lots of a really abusive activity and corruption in the teamsters union including Hoffa but he also uh-huh self broke norms laws in in going after Hoffa in many ways and he was very moralistic about it and he was very moralistic even even though inside the government he was cutting corners in many ways more so as attorney general when he became attorney general his brother John's camp administration in the early sixties he's but for seven years Kennedy Hounded Hoffa and he finally put him away at the end of those seven years and as I say Hoffa had plenty committed plenty of sense there's plenty go after but the way he went after Hoffa both in the Senate and in as attorney general it was really one of one of the great examples of the government over reach ever despite office ins all right so now we're into the seventies and the FBI is investigating. We'll get to the merits of the investigation but talk about the agents who did this investigation and the US Attorney's Office that supervisor so I actually spent a lot of time interviewing the four lead investigators of the Hoffa disappearance nineteen seventy eighty five when appeared and these four men were in their early thirties they were kind of doing the FBI and suddenly they were on especially the two guys in Detroit the biggest case ever and I interviewed them for seven years and we became friends actually improbably and they are four men who just extraordinary integrity. They are the best I've ever seen the their best exemplars I've ever seen from the department in the sense that they still to this day care what happened when they're still committed to the truth. They're still at the time and now committed to following the right procedures even secret and one of the things one of the things I talked about in the book is how the government was leaking stuff either lies or misleading way to try to pressure chucky into talking about things and these four guys did not do that. It's quite clear and they follow the book and so anyway. It was at least through those those for men it. It was really for me. The Best of the Department the bureau. I'm sorry has ever produced great men to this day. They're great men and they we're just had the biggest case ever dropped in their lap and it was quite natural that a focused on Turkey all right. Let's let's talk about the disappearance and talk about how and Chucky and the disappearance so first of all what was chuck relationship to Jimmy Hoffa and and why did the nature of that relationship 'cause he. FBI to focus on him when when Hoffa vanish so so as I said earlier chucky through his mother his mother was very close to Hoffa end his what an office wife tracking through his mother met Hoffman he was nine and he was close to offer offer growing up and when he was very young man when Hoffa became president of the teamsters nine hundred fifty seven twenty four time twenty three in the time he became basically Hoffa's he'd been his aid for a couple of years basically became at his title was something Special Assistant to the president the teamsters union and he was basically by office side every day and we wasn't behalf aside he was in Detroit taking care of family. They were very close. many people thought because of their closeness and because of the affection that office showed towards Jackie the extraordinarily faction even when he was growing up have always protected him and always covered for many people want assumed that Oughta was chunkys real father and chucky treated him like a father and he was for all purposes his is effective father. Turkeys father other left when he was seven years old about the same time that my father left so they were extremely tight and Chucky was basically his right hand man up through the seventies about six months seven months before the disappearance they had a falling out for a whole bunch of reasons complicated reasons that I talked about in the book part of it had to do with Chucky meeting my mother and wanting when you start a new life but had a falling out about six or seven months before the disappearance that's background to the disappearance and when the disappearance happens. There's a whole slew of circumstantial evidence that pointed to Chucky is being in the area driving a car in the area that was a car owned by the son of a mobster there was office sent was eventually found in the car and there's a lot of circumstantial evidence that suggested that Chucky was the right person the right time and off because he knew Chuckie so well would have gotten in the car with Chucky so there there was some circumstance evidence there was this long term intimacy followed by a by a breach with Hoffa and also Jackie was also in addition to being close to Hoffa very close to the senior organized crime official in new in Detroit who is the WHO is deleting suspect in the case also also so because he was close to the leading suspect and because he was in the area at the time and because there was some evidence that the car had Hoffa in it they naturally zeroed in on him all right so let's talk about that other father figure for Chucky Tony Jacklin who Tony Uncle Tony and uh-huh. Why was it that Chucky in addition to having this father figure in Jimmy Hoffa had these very close relationships with very very senior mobsters basically it happened because of his mother so chucky was born in Kansas City and he was half a million and a half Irish to sell you on his mother's side and his family on his Italian side in Kansas City was part of the early crime family in Kansas City and Chucky from a very young age identify with Cillian heritage and he basically identified with those values he knew a lot of the old timers as he put it in Kansas City when his mother moved moved to Detroit because her family had these connections sheep immediately became known with organized crime in Detroit and his mother. I became very close to especially to Anthony Jack Lonnie and it was through his mother that he avenue Jack Loney talkies mother just as an aside Sylvia Pagano is one of the most extraordinary ordinary characters in the book and I wish I could book about her but I couldn't find any more information. She was basically the person who introduced off to the mob and for years he was a go-between between between Hoffa and organized crime figures around the country and she had really extraordinary influence over Hoffa and she was seen that influence and it's part of the reason probably Hoffa was there was also widely rumored that Hoffa had an affair with her this and that and that's why that Chucky is supposedly a father. I think none of that is true. I'm trying to show that in the book but it's basically through his mother who knew all these organized crime figures of is very close to them. I'll just Anthony Jack Lowney but anthony can you province honor and New Jersey as well close to him so on the side but one that will amuse the audience. Mario Puzo has a character in the godfather who is not a Sicilian and who he says specifically is modelled on Chuckie O'Brien Brian and his relationship with Jimmy Hoffa and that is of course Tom Hayden who's played in the movie by Robert Duvall and so let's and Puzo said that explicitly you identify two other movies in which there are characters that are based on Chuckie O'Brien O'Brien three now because one week right so tell us about chucky his portrayal in the movies and to what extent any of the characters bear any resemblance to chucky good so Puzo said that he based this. Tom Hagen after the book came out. He said he based the character. Tom Hagen this Guy Chucky This Irish kid named O'Brien who was always at Hoffa side which he was always a few feet behind her at his side. That's the cover of the book and it was seen in the nineteen. Sixties sixty cents Hoffa was a very famous guy always in the news and pictures and Chucky was always there with him that he was like his conciliatory. Turkey did not in fact have have that relationship. He was very tight with Hoffa but he wasn't his conciliatory. He didn't have the skills of he wasn't. He didn't have great judgment on all the time. He wasn't really didn't really fully understand the business so he was not an accurate to understand. My puzo thought that they were very close. He was have ours have Sicilian kids but it wasn't it wasn't a perfect model of malice involving Paul Newman Sally field that was a story in which Paul Newman was explicitly based on Chucky and that was basically a story written by Kerr decky. Who is the editor Detroit Free Press. He told me that the that the Paul Newman character was a composite character but mostly based on Turkey that was a story about a Labor guy who woke up one day and saw himself framed in the newspapers and it was about the government leaking on the guy to try to get him to talk about a crime that had just happened to try to pressure them into talking. It was very much based on the way Chuckie saw the world and it's the way the decky saw the world so Paul Newman had no. He doesn't look anything like chucky that was actually a fairly accurate portrayal L. in terms of the situation in his life. Danny devito played a character based on Turkey in the first half movie and then Jesse Clemens Simmons is that his name is rumored to play Chucky and the the new movie the Irishman that premiered yesterday so I don't know what that one says so really amazing amazing everything veto Paul Newman and Robert. I'm so all right. Did he do it so the claim was that he picked up Hoffa from the restaurant in Detroit and took him to his killers. They knew the time was never that he that he knew that he was going to be killed. He was kind of a duke who was asked to pick him up and deliver him somewhere else. I always suspected that he didn't before I did seven years of research basically because he always spoke about often reverential terms and just I just I just really didn't believe that that he could have done it for seven years of research and ninety nine point nine percent. I'm convinced that he didn't there are a whole bunch of the circumstantial case against him. I go through the Buchan very carefully. Show why none of that holds up. I give lots of reasons to think that he couldn't have been there that day as the FBI said and I give lots of circumstantial evidence on top of that for why he didn't do it but for me not so there are a lot of reasons to meet the commencement that he didn't do it. Including our conversations hundreds of hours thousands out cars conversation but the clincher for me is at the Federal Bureau of Investigation investigation basically doesn't he did either and I learned that basically starting in the nineties the bureau the agents in Detroit. That's right for a whole bunch of reasons similar to the ones. I talked about in the book and also some reasons I did that. I didn't find on my own that I learned from them. They came to include that chuck. You probably couldn't have been there at that time. There were independent reasons that they didn't think he did it and they developed reasons to think someone else did it. So there's a whole bunch of so I came to the conclusion lesion that no he didn't do it and I think I make the case pretty compellingly in the book which was by the way when I started this book. That was my main goal so okay so first of all I agree you make the case very compelling but I also think the world is littered with books by interested parties saying Yup my best best friends so and so who was long accused of blank is innocent and let me show that he couldn't have been there at the time right so let me just say that I was very aware of that. In writing this book it was a huge burden that I had to try to overcome right so I want to focus on your interactions interactions with the bureau and the US Attorney's office over it because it seems to me that while one can raise that concern about you as an interested party it is it is actually more interesting that their view of the matter has changed than that you in reconciling with Chucky. You have pored over the evidence and found that he didn't do it right so when you said the F. B. I. started to change its views in the nineties ladies and has come to focus on a different person at this point. What do we know at this stage about what the F. B. I. Believes Happened Okay so I can talk about this a bit. I I only talk about this for paragraph in the book. I could've talked about it more my publisher you want me to talk about it more but I decided not to basically I learned from several agents and members people in the US Attorney's office. This is something I had to piece together over the a years through lots of conversations with them in lots of different contexts in which they would say one thing and another about who they thought did it and why I finally triangulate annulating figured out and they basically knowledge to me that that that was correct the bottom line is the F. B. I have I have not looked at their evidence. So I can't vouch what's for this theory. I can just report this is what they believe and I can only say the bottom line is they think it was even though the operation may have been authorized to New York or somewhere on the east coast than it was purely Detroit operation that the person they believed to picked up off of that day in Detroit was a man named veto veto Dak Aloni who is the brother of Aunty Jack Lonnie who had also been close to Hoffa and also been involved in trying to get off to calm down and stop threatening to to expose the mobs involvement the teacher's Union. They believe that Jack Lonnie was the one that picked him up and they believe that another person person they believe killed him was also a very low level. Detroit organized crime figure made man who soon after the disappearance rose in prominence in the Detroit family and he died earlier this year. They seem very confident that he did it. They say it's based on surveillance information that inform and information I believe that their belief about that and that was the killer is the basis for the dig they did in two thousand thirteen looking for Hoffa's remains. You didn't find it was about the twelfth or Thirteenth Day ahead over AH forty four years looking for his remains so as best. I can tell that's where the cases today but I haven't seen the evidence you have to be. I said a lot of things about my stepfather of the government and I should say said a lot of things about my stepfather over the years and they were confident he did it so I don't have any independent way of confirming that that's actually what happened but that's what I do do believe that they believe that all right so mid seventies chuck his life has completely turned upside down by this to this day the US federal government has never said he is no longer a suspect and we're going to talk in a minute about your efforts to get got them to do that but before we do that. I want to ask about the impact on cheque's life of being like what what happens to you when the government decides that you're the principal suspect in the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa so not a good thing this was I mean for for those of you who remember this was a huge deal in the seventies. I mean it was front page every day. It was a national sensation it was a circus and Chucky was is in the center of the circus and from the very beginning he was named the suspect there was an affidavit by one of the Detroit agents the one became very very close with one who actually told me for the book that he now doesn't think chucky did it who swore in nine hundred seventy five that Hoffa was picked up and taken to his death by the car chucky was driving so the FBI very early on made it clear that they thought it was a central suspect that they also leaked lots of information. Some of their internal reports some some unattributed quotation saying he did it. We have evidence for about to indict him over twenty years. It is not a great thing for to be accused of that especially since Hoffa was effectively as father and it had a terrible impact on him my mother our family emily it's it ended up basically running. His reputation obviously ended up making it impossible to work in the teamsters union so it had a devastating interesting impact and just just reiterate. They had good reasons for thinking he did it. They didn't need to leak false information like show that they did over the decades the government but they had good reasons for focusing on him in the beginning amber twenty years thereafter but it was it was terrible to move through so one of the good reasons or maybe the not good reason but one of the big reasons they come to focus on him. Is that his essentially adoptive stepbrother. Jimmy Hoffa junior believes he did it right and and Jimmy Hoffa junior who is to this day the president of the teamsters union develops the idea that that that he had probably played a role and makes this argument to the FBI and deeply influences the way the FBI thinks about it so talk about the role of Jimmy Hoffa junior in the development of this narrative so James Hoffa and Chucky each other's James was born affect helped raise him because his father was always on the road and Chucky was at his wife and his family helped to raise the children but they were always rivals because this James was the straight Arrow he went to Michigan Michigan Law School. He wasn't involved in his father's business directly at least not the the central side of his business Chucky was the one that was close to Hoffa carbon capture sign at a distance to keep him out of trouble always a growing rivalry between them. throughout the sixties and seventies and this rivalry got more intense as Jimmy he became closer to off and chucky became less close lead up to the disappearance for a lot of reasons so in the disappearance happens James James immediately concludes the Chucky was involved and he concludes this because he calls around to ask what was that day there was a gap of time that perfectly if it's the time when Hoffa disappeared where no one can account for chunkys whereabouts he knows that Hoffa and Chucky have had a falling out and whatever other reasons he becomes convinced early early on that Chucky was involved they have a shouting match about it a couple of days after Hoffa disappears and so when he talks to the FBI and gives him the there his first report report about what he thinks happened and gives them. I low down on the case. He basically points the finger junkie and Ziang. I think he did it. He had all these reasons to do it. He was close to Jack Loney. He and my father had on a falling out can account for his time and he's acting weird and other saying there were good reasons to focus on Chunky but James's focus on him the FBI told me what really league lead them to focus on jockey and so that's how it happened. That's how the focus on him began again. They develop evidence to suggest that he might have been involved but they they basically glommed onto him in an intense way first of all because James born of the finger at him all right so as you start researching researching as you develop these relationships with these F. B. I. Agents. You go back over this history. Your instinctive doubts come. I'm to be reinforced by the FBI's own suspicions and eventually but nobody is just to be clear nobody in the world noses until this book comes out right right so this is all happening behind the scenes if I could just say something. This is one of the most troublesome things to me is the government for twenty years leaks things and let it be known that he's. The Guy this movie. The Scorsese movie is based on the early. FBI report and I'm pretty sure I haven't seen the movie yet but the book based on places Chucky in the car so that's that's all the doing of the government put out this theory which everyone believes and then the last twenty years they come to a different view and nobody in the world knows it so chuck is is left out there with this credible belief that he's the guy that did it and so you decide to try to broker understanding between Chucky and the FBI I were he will address their questions. Take a polygraph lenience guy and they will issue a letter saying there is no he is no longer I suspect and so tell us the story of the Near. The near non-target let are non subject letter that you almost got from the US Attorney's Office in Michigan. So one of the themes in the book is how unlucky Chucky is there was a review of the New York Times yesterday view where he said that Chucky has to be the unluckiest person person ever associated with organized crime and really the book is just relentless about his relentless bad luck you know being in the area where Hoffa disappeared if he didn't do do it being in the area where Hoffa disappeared driving a car of the son of the guy who is a leading suspect. That's bad luck if you didn't do it so they actually to be clarified a little bit the bureau starting in the nineties the chief investigator men name. Andrew plus approach chucky starting in the nineties and for many years said had. I don't think you're involved. This was not really in the public realm. I don't think you were involved. I'd like to clear your name. I need you to take a lie detector tests. If you take the tests and pass will exonerate you publicly so they started approaching him in the nineties. I found out about this in the two thousand two thousand two thousand twelve basically so I went to the Detroit I says is this offer still on the table and tell me about why you think this and they basically said we don't think he did it. We think it was impossible to be there and yes. We will send him a letter. You're saying you're not a target or subject. We don't think he did it. If you come in and do an interview take a Lotta detector tests check very old. He's got severe diabetes and he's not in great shape did this. When he was eight years old four hours he spent there. It wasn't just as agent. It was the entire. US Attorney's Office we had an official official letter from US Attorney's office promising this letter of exoneration. He goes through this grueling for our process. He tells the truth they determined that he told the truth and then they promised that this letter would be forthcoming because they determined he told the truth they didn't even require him to take to take a lot detector tests and in fact they didn't let him a lot of protests turned out even though they promised to be able to do so declared name and it turned out long complicated set of events that they you called us and they said we're on the verge of giving him the letter letters forthcoming we just had to clear with the FBI and I couldn't believe it. I spent many years at this point digging trying trying to clear him be convinced that he was didn't do it that the stain of of many decades was gonna be lifted an official way and I'd finally allowed myself to be convinced that this letter was forthcoming because they told us it was coming and then the rug was pulled underneath them again and it was pulled underneath him. I believe according to the people I talked to because that summer a couple of months after this interview happened there was a that's when they did this last dig and dig looking for Hoffler Maine's and it turns out they didn't find his remains in that was hugely embarrassing very expensive for the Bureau and after that happened the the political people in charge I believe in the US Attorney's office and the FBI agent in charge. It's pretty clear that even though everybody underneath them had promised this and they had signed off on it and even the everyone underneath and believe the Chucky had told the truth and didn't do it they decided why are we going to give this letter of his honoration is. GonNa make us look terrible and they stretch it out months and months Monte even though they promised it would happen in weeks and nine months after they promised finally said we're not going to give it to you and they have is no a good reason for doing so all right so I want to turn to the neural evaluation of Chucky which one of the things I love about about this book is that you clearly love the guy and yet the moral evaluation is really complicated because is at the end of the day the exculpatory story is he was a mobbed up teamster guy who did all kinds of things that was involved in all kinds of stuff is best friends are all mobsters. He's involved in some bad stuff. He was a great father and he wasn't involved evolved in the death of Jimmy Hoffa but one of the really interesting things about it is that he clearly knew more about the disappearance Jimmy Hoffa than when he was willing to tell anybody and you get a chunk of it out of him but at the end of the day you don't get all of it out out of him and I don't want to spoil the ending the buck but Schalke is pretty true to the America code and and so I want to break this into two two different areas one is how should we understand somebody. Who is you know the part mobster part union official part bodyguard for a kind of corrupt labor union genius. Es Really I've been Hoffa was a very impressive individual quite apart from the sort of Omerta stuff which will come to in a minute. How should we understand on the career of Chuckie O'Brien. It's a difficult question so I just need to say a word about America to answer that. May this this commitment to not talking about things. You're not supposed to talk to the code of Silence. It's no exaggeration to say that it ordered chunkys life life. It was the ordering principle of his life. Despite that was the owner principals life and his love for me and my brothers I really think those were and my mom. Those were the two ordering the principles of his life in the last forty years and before that with America and it's impossible for me to exaggerate talk about the origins of this why he I thought this and was born to him very early on he makes clear to me. There's some things I'm not gonNA tell. You can't talk about it. A lot of the dialogue in the book is about US skirmishing over what he can and can't tell me and him can telling me things. He wasn't quite supposed to and me trying to know where the line is so he he was very torn. Let me I just say before. I answer your question in the writing of this book about loving me wanting to tell me as he put it one time the book I love you very much and I want you to write a great book. I'm doing my best to tell you. The moral evaluation of him is that is difficult on the one hand by any objective standard he he has a completely different moral worldview than I do. He views the law essentially as corrupt institution. Here's the government is corrupt institution. He's not doesn't much care about legal compliance. He's committed many many many crimes in his life. He wasn't a mobster but because it wasn't a made man because he was half Irish but he has he's very close to a lot of many members of organized crime he has been his whole life and he's done a lot in in the service of those people and hopping in his criminal activities so looked at from that point of view you would say he doesn't do very well in the moral calculus to put it mildly and a lot of the dialogue in the book. I several times I asked him. You're how can you you're complaining about the government breaking the law but what about all of your multiple serial lawbreaking which you don't care about and his basic view is it was a consistent view. His basic view is they were coming after us and we had to do what we had survive and that's what I learned and that's what I believe. That's a self serving draft traffic Asian. There's truth to it but it's the self-serving so looked at from that perspective. I think anyone would have to say doesn't doesn't doesn't fails the morality morality test. I came however of course writing this book became extremely close and I came to understand his role as a world view born in the city. It was what he was raised in. It's what he came to understand in value and especially his Ameritech amendment which I started off off thinking was just the self-serving Protective Gambit of a guy who commits crimes to not talk about things he doesn't WanNa talk about it. It wasn't that it was a genuine commitment to principle it was a principal that he admired that ordered his life and I have to say that a certain point in the book I came to admire it to talk about this at the end and the following sense at some point in the book. I didn't want him to tell me anymore and I didn't want him to tell me anymore because I knew that if I pushed him too far you he would violate this principle of honor that was so central to him and I didn't WanNa do that to him because he had this this principle of honor there was a thing he had held onto for forty five years the thing he had suffered her forty five years at of commitment to and so describe it as the last conversation tation we had about this when he basically said sorry son. I'm I'm not I'm not gonNa tell you what you want to know. Everything you WanNa know I described it. I said I was in office visit eccentric integrity and that's how I came to came to one of the other riveting features of this book which is actually a subject object about which I knew nothing is the personality of Jimmy coup. I've always I I mean I was kind of a kid when he disappeared and I've always thought of him says a Labor leader who was mostly mobster you portray him in a much more complicated light as kind of a Labor labor pioneer in some ways who was you know had complicated relationships with all kinds of different people. What what is the legacy of Jimmy Hoffa answer that I forgot to answer one thing about the moral calculus chucky that I wanted to add if I could and I'll talk about the legacy of Jimmy off the other. The thing that I think is important in forgo moral calculus is to other things for me. wait in the scales one. He was just an amazing father and and no matter what he did in his life those five years he gave to me and the love he showed me for the last fifteen were extraordinary and I can never judge him too harshly because of that. That's the first thing second thing is over the course of the last decade or early. I've worked in the government. I have really you become much less judgmental for a whole bunch of readings in part because of my faith but also chucky was right in the sense that lawbreaking is not something having limited to criminals mobsters and there was a lot of compromise going on inside the government pursuing these folks and it just I muddy the waters for me just a little bit in terms of the moral calculus of lawbreaking okay. Jimmy Hoffa's legacy so I have to say I spend a lot of if time learning about this man tacky and I talked about in a long time chucky doing better than anyone I did a lot of research on this and I came away against acknowledging that he broke every role in the book completely moral and did not believe in the law. He was completely opportunistic realistic. Everything for him was an instrumental exchange. What can you do for me. And what do I have to give you to do it and he didn't care who he was dealing with the mob for Hoffa. It was just another transaction. He was had no feel to the mob. It was just another transaction like the like the he would do business with Labor Union. The leader who had completely different ideologies Kava was pretty conservative as Labor leader and he would do business with people he despised because we'd help union you pay politicians to the his union help help us power so he was lawbreaker and he was completely amoral and he didn't give a damn on the other hand. I came to admire him enormously because just for so many reasons he came from nothing he he was incredibly impressive at his job. He was an outstanding Labor leader. Setting aside lied all the stuff that got him in trouble that ended up being fall. Would you can't send a side. He was just a master at negotiation and bargaining and figuring out how to use transportation network of the teamsters to grow the teams with legacy he was no one has ever been Jay. The hoover described what Bobby Kennedy did to Hoffa in a conversation with Richard Nixon as railroading and that's a fair description. No one has ever been subjected to what hopping subjected to so there. That's just I just really he was just address an extraordinary man many many ways and I try to paint a picture of him. His legacy is complicated. I think it's mostly a tragic legacy. There was an opportunity for Jimmy Hoffa and the teamsters in the fifties season sixties to leave the American labor movement in a completely different direction at about the time that Hoffa was at his rise the American labor movement was at its peak and was entering the period of long declined where it is today. HOFFA had the skills and he had the teamsters union which leverage over transportation networks could have a huge powerful leverage of labor against management and if the teamsters had not been kicked out of the AFL CIO for their corruption. It's just that Labour might I have gone completely different direction now. It's completely fanciful hypothetical or counterfactual ECAUSE HOFFA was this bad guy and even though he was great Labour leader in grew the teamsters the team for growing massively and his his members loved him because he brought home the Bacon at the same time he never could lead the Labor movement because he was corrupt. So the legacy there is a tragedy labor movement. The legacy of Bobby Kennedy taking off down is one of the very ironical because has bobby. Kennedy always thought he decapitated Hoffa that would get rid of mob control over the union in fact the opposite happened as I saw in the book. Hoffa actually kept the mob with bay he gave them loans but they were on his terms and he kept them out as much as he could and the opposite happened when Kennedy decapitated Hoffa the mob took over the teamsters and basically just infiltrated it so that's another legacy and I think a lot of the legacy I draw a tie between governmental abuses and overreach in the fifties and sixties Susan things that are going on today and I don't want to draw the analogy to sharply or to finally but Hoffa stands with all of his sins as the person against tune the government had the most overreach and it chasing me a little bit about that that element of governmental power when you say that are you including Martin Luther King in that or is that a different category because it was sort of politically motivated and not really fundamentally about getting crime what the government did the king was. I think on any measure worse because actually despite the just unbelievable illegal surveillance going on it gets it's can against the mob at the time and have a whole chapter on that. There are only a couple of instances. That government tried to hide hard what it did often termed surveillance. I think it probably available illegally a couple of times but it was never surveilling Hoffa and using the evidence against him to try to basically blackmail and get him to commit suicide nothing ever like that that said the government illegality against the mob in the fifties and sixties was far more extensive than ever against King and what they did to Hoffa in the fifties and sixties was really abusive along many dimensions that might not rise to what they did to king but in the aggregate was very very bad all all right so we got to wrap up but I want to one of the things that I learned about Jimmy Hoffa in reading the book that just floored me was at the actual period talent he was president of the teamsters union was really short. I mean it's nineteen fifty seven to nine hundred sixty four sixty seven sixty seven. He goes to prison so it's a ten year period and by the time he is president of the teamsters union. Bobby Kennedy already is obsessed with him and we continue continue to be obsessed with him in this weird way to this day yeah and so my question last just to wrap up. Why is it that a guy who who is for ten years. The president of the teamsters union and disappears in nineteen seventy five had such catch a hold on the public imagination that presidential can ultimately a presidential candidate and his brother are obsessed with them and forty years. It's after his death. We are still obsessed with him. Why don't we care so much about Jimmy Hoffa. I think the answer is two reasons one for those who were around in the fifties and sixties season early seventies. It's hard to exaggerate what a larger than life figure he was. He was an unbelievable presence and a spokesperson for Labour but also this defiant strangely attractive and important at the same time person who was caught up in this drama with the government over ten decades goes to prison undramatic terms comes out in dramatic terms and then disappear so Hafa himself was a huge figure in the fifties sixties early seventies. That's the backdrop. The second reason is simply because is he just disappeared. We don't have the truth is no matter what anyone says. We don't know what happened to him and he just last seen in the parking lot and then he just disappeared and the truth is nobody. I don't know what the government's evidence is but nobody knows what happened to it says if he just evaporated and there's not a single piece of evidence not one and I've looked at it all and talk to everybody about what happened to him that afternoon and where where and why he disappeared. We don't know if he got in a car on terribly who's hit over the head. No one saw anything and I think that given this larger than life figure who disappears completely under such dramatic circumstances and we just don't know what happened it allows everyone to pour in their own backgrounds owns and theories and and this is why to this the book came out a week ago and I've people will come out of the woodwork and got about a dozen emails and call saying I know we're Hav the is my cousin was involved. There's this farm outside of Detroit. You should look at let me come talk to you about it. It's amazing the obsession that persist but I think the reasons because nobody knows what happened. The book is in Hoffa's shadow stepfather a disappearance in Detroit and my search for the truth. Please join me in thanking jackals. Thank you becoming the law fair. PODCAST GAS is produced in cooperation with the Brookings Institution. Thanks this week to Jack Goldsmith and to the Texas Tribune Festival for hosting the event and providing US audio. Please share the law firm PODCASTS and Yosef Five Star Review on items can purchase offer t shirts hats mugs and more at the law fair store DOT COM. The podcast is edited by Gen Paci. How and our music is performed by Sophia Yan as always thank you for listening