WAPO Fawns Over Infamous Justice Department Official Who Covered Up Fast and Furious Connection to Brian Terry Murder

Katie Pavlich

1/7/2013 2:45:00 PM - Katie Pavlich

The Washington Post, the same newspaper that falsely smeared border state gun dealerships as cartel suppliers before the Fast and Furious scandal broke, has a new piece out by Ann Marimow fawning over former Department of Justice Deputy Attorney General Jason Weinstein, who resigned in September.

A high achiever

Weinstein came to Washington as a teenager in 1982 to compete in the National Spelling Bee, having won the regional championship in San Antonio. The son of a hospital administrator and a nurse, he was a high achiever from the get-go. He also was captain of the math and debate teams in high school.

Then he was off to Princeton, where he became student body president and led campaigns to build a new student center and to stop the Central Intelligence Agency from recruiting on campus until it changed its policy that prevented gays and lesbians from being hired.

From Weinstein’s first criminal law class at George Washington University, he was intent on becoming a prosecutor. He joined the U.S. Attorney’s Office in New York and spent three years learning the fundamentals of running wiretaps and gun cases. He moved to Montgomery County after becoming engaged to a woman who was working for a local conservation organization.

Weinstein — a brilliant student, gifted lawyer and methodical prosecutor — had spent a career steeped in nuance.

Weinstein is portrayed by Marimow as someone whose "name had surfaced," in Fast and Furious even though he wasn't really involved. Marimow even goes so far as saying Weinstein learned about Fast and Furious "by accident." The fact is, Weinstein not only knew about Fast and Furious and its tactics, he helped mislead Congress when he was asked about them. What the Post fails to point out, among many things, is Weinstein's connection to former U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke and Attorney General Eric Holder. Burke, who resigned in August 2011 without citing the Fast and Furious fallout as a reason for departure, was in charge of Fast and Furious from the ground level in Phoenix while sitting on Holder's Attorney General Advisory Board. He regularly exchanged emails with Weinstein on a number of issues, but in particular when it came to responding to initial Fast and Furious inquiries from Senator Chuck Grassley in January 2011, shortly after Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry was killed. Weinstein quarterbacked how to respond to Grassley's request for information about the operation and helped draft an official DOJ response. Eventually, the Justice Department sent a letter to Grassley denying gunwalking had ever occurred. That letter is the infamous February 4 letter that was so full of falsehoods, it had to eventually be withdrawn from the congressional record. The DOJ inspector general report shows Weinstein tried to downplay the connection between the murder of Terry and ATF gunwalking.

Weinstein’s comments to [Faith] Burton’s first draft, along with his subsequent e-mails to Burton and others, show that Weinstein believed the response should more forcefully rebut what he perceived to be Sen. Grassley’s allegation concerning the weapons recovered at the Terry murder scene, which he characterized as “the most salacious and damaging to ATF, both short- and long-term.” ATF Office of Legislative Affairs Chief Rasnake wrote to Weinstein to thank him for his support. Weinstein replied, “Thanks. My boss and I are fervently supportive of ATF, and these allegations are infuriating.”

As described below, Weinstein’s desire to vigorously address the issue of the weapons found at the Terry murder scene was shared by Burke and others, but was at odds with Burton’s view of the letter’s purpose and how it should be written. This debate over whether and to what extent the Department should address in its response the link between the weapons found at the Terry murder scene and Operation Fast and Furious came to dominate the drafting and editing process.

Even if Weinstein wasn't aware of the tactics used in Fast and Furious (which he was) the Post story reveals another potential problem within the Department of Justice: wiretaps are being signed off on without being read in full. This is a guy who is an expert in "the fundamentals of wiretapping" yet is telling us he didn't read the wiretaps in full before signing off on them? He's either lying or violating civil rights without going through the proper processes. As a reminder, wiretapping is the most controversial and most invasive technique available to law enforcement as a last resort for investigation.

Weinstein received the first of three wiretap applications he would review for Fast and Furious. He said that following years of department practice, he signed off after reading summary memos prepared by lawyers in the Office of Enforcement Operations. He did not read the supporting affidavits. To do so would have slowed approval of time-sensitive wiretaps to a standstill and become his full-time job, Weinstein said.

The Post piece ends with how Weinstein said goodbye to his DOJ position and of course, he was the victim in all of this.

Saying goodbye

At the Elephant and Castle pub across Pennsylvania Avenue from the Justice Department, about 75 former co-workers gathered one brisk evening days after Thanksgiving to toast Weinstein. Breuer served as master of ceremonies, several in attendance said.

As guests munched on potato skins and wings at a cash bar, there were lengthy, upbeat tributes to Weinstein’s work.

No one mentioned Fast and Furious.

Many of Weinstein’s former colleagues — federal law enforcement agents, prosecutors and other lawyers — say they are distraught about his public-service career being cut short. The portrayal of Weinstein on the Hill and in the inspector general report is at odds with the person they know.

Maybe if Weinstein didn't help aid and abet the deliberate misleading of Congress, he'd still have his gig.