John Shepherd, the man Attorney General Edwin Meese had picked to become his deputy, formally withdrew his name from consideration Wednesday, saying, "My wife and I were not prepared for the pressures" to which he would be subjected.
Meese had announced April 5 that Shepherd, a St. Louis attorney, was his choice to become deputy attorney general, replacing Arnold Burns, who announced March 29 he was leaving and whose last day on the job will be Friday.Shepherd, in a statement, said he had felt it was his duty to accept Meese's offer "without hesitation."
But, he added, "I am concerned about the personal and financial sacrifices my family and I were being asked to make in order to accept a very difficult short-term appointment. My wife and I were not prepared for the pressures to which someone recommended for this position at this time would be subjected."
He said he and Meese had discussed his predicament and, "while I am pleased to learn that there is no obstacle to my nomination, I have asked him to withdraw my name from consideration."
Meese, in a statement of his own, said, "Regrettably, intense media attention on Mr. Shepherd's impending nomination has had a severe impact on him and his family."
Shortly before Meese recommended Shepherd for the Justice Department post, a former bookkeeper from Shepherd's law firm testified that she had had an affair with Shepherd. The bookkeeper, who was convicted of embezzlement, claimed Shepherd had told her to write checks to herself. Shepherd denied that he had an affair with her or that he had authorized her to write checks.
In addition, it was disclosed after Meese's April 5 announcement that Shepherd belonged to an all-male club and to an all-white country club.
But Meese said that "all the information raised in the media since he was named was known to the White House and the (Justice) department in advance and has been fully investigated by the FBI in its background review."
"There is nothing whatsoever to suggest that Mr. Shepherd would have had any confirmation problems," Meese said.
Shepherd earlier had been recommended for a job in the Justice Department by E. Robert Wallach, a longtime Meese friend now under indictment in the Wedtech scandal, sources said Wednesday.
The sources, who requested anonymity, said Wallach had proposed Shepherd's name for an unspecified post in 1984 or 1985.
Department sources said that Meese has been trying since the beginning of the week to fill the post that Shepherd was to have taken.