The operation went awry when more than 2,000 U.S.-purchased weapons hit the streets of Mexico and the United States. Two of the guns were found at the scene of the killing of a U.S. Border Patrol agent.
Although Weinstein had no role in devising the tactics and had no supervisory authority over Fast and Furious, he had signed documents that helped the agents proceed with their operation.
On Capitol Hill, the investigation had taken on predictable and intractable political dynamics. Democrats concluded that no high-level officials at the Justice Department, including Weinstein, were to blame for the “gun-walking” scheme; Republicans accused Weinstein of knowingly abetting the flawed operation.
Many had dismissed the partisan wrangling and looked to the respected Office of Inspector General at the Justice Department to ferret out the facts.
There, waiting for Weinstein in his e-mail inbox on that August night, was a draft copy of the long-awaited IG report. Weinstein, 44, wasn’t sure what to expect when he typed Ctl+F to search for his name.
He was shocked by what came up on his screen.
Weinstein’s experience has become something of a cautionary tale about the risks and responsibilities of occupying a relatively high-level government post. And his past 18 months illustrate what it’s like to be swept up in the vortex of a Washington scandal that often inflicts damage on central figures and tangential players alike.
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.
Commuting to his new job in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore, Weinstein built a reputation as a relentless, innovative prosecutor. As violent-crimes chief, he took on some of Baltimore’s most notorious drug dealers and gang members by working with local police to get guns out of the wrong hands.