Weinstein — a brilliant student, gifted lawyer and methodical prosecutor — had spent a career steeped in nuance. He’d later regret using the pronoun “it.” (Through a spokeswoman, Breuer declined to comment.)
Border agent’s fatal shooting
Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was fatally shot during a firefight with suspected illegal immigrants in the Arizona desert in December 2010. Word quickly spread within ATF that two of the assault rifles found at the scene matched guns bought by a Fast and Furious suspect at a Phoenix-area gun store.
Whistleblowing ATF agents contacted the office of Sen. Charles E. Grassley (Iowa), the ranking Republican on the Senate Judiciary Committee. The next month, Grassley wrote to Justice to ask whether their allegations of gun-walking were true.
Weinstein, along with a handful of other Justice Department lawyers, agreed to help prepare a response. Trading drafts and editing suggestions by e-mail, Weinstein and others at Justice relied on information they gathered from at least nine officials from ATF and the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Arizona. All insisted that guns had not “walked.”
“ATF makes every effort to interdict weapons that have been purchased illegally and prevent their transportation to Mexico,” the department replied in February 2011.
The information turned out to be wrong. ATF had not made “every effort” to seize firearms — not in Fast and Furious or in Wide Receiver. Justice would eventually retract the letter.
On the Hill, Grassley joined with Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, to begin an aggressive investigation.
That fall, the committee released thousands of subpoenaed documents that included Weinstein’s e-mail to Trusty that said: “It’s a tricky case given the number of guns that have walked but it is a significant set of prosecutions.”
To Republican critics, the “it” in the e-mail implied that top Justice officials had known about gun-walking in Operation Fast and Furious one year earlier, despite their contrary assertions to Congress.
At the time, a department spokesperson explained that the “it” in Weinstein’s message had referred to Operation Wide Receiver, the Bush-era case — not to Fast and Furious.
Weinstein recalled joking with friends that he “got more press for a bad pronoun reference in one e-mail than all the murder cases in my career.”
By the time Weinstein was called to answer questions from Issa’s House committee last January, the U.S. Attorney in Phoenix had resigned and the head of ATF had been reassigned.