President Bush yesterday nominated Kenneth L. Wainstein to serve as U.S. attorney for the District, giving him the job after he served a year as the acting head of the prosecutor's office.
Wainstein, 43, has been interim U.S. attorney since May 2004, taking over for Roscoe C. Howard Jr., who resigned to go into private practice. The president chooses U.S. attorneys, subject to Senate confirmation. The nomination is for a four-year term, the White House said.
Wainstein, a veteran prosecutor and former FBI official, has met with neighborhood groups across the District and helped launch a crackdown against drug trafficking in the Sursum Corda public housing complex and other problem areas.
He also has overseen numerous high-profile white-collar cases during the past year.
The U.S. attorney's office investigated Riggs Bank, which pleaded guilty in January to failing to prevent possible money laundering by Equatorial Guinea officials and by former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. The bank has since been sold to PNC Financial Services Group Inc.
The office also is handling the prosecution of businessman Walter Anderson, who has pleaded not guilty in what authorities called the largest case of personal tax evasion in U.S. history.
Wainstein declined to comment yesterday. But Wilma A. Lewis, who was Wainstein's boss when she served as U.S. attorney for the District during the second Clinton administration, praised the selection.
"I think it's great for the office. I think it's great for the city," she said last night, describing Wainstein as "a tenacious prosecutor."
Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said in a statement that she has a good relationship with Wainstein, adding that she will "look more closely at his approach to civil and criminal matters," particularly those concerning the city's gun laws.
Last month, Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Tex.) sponsored a bill that would repeal the District's ban on handguns, following a similar effort by Sen. Larry E. Craig (R-Idaho) that failed last fall. Norton supports the ban.
The U.S. attorney's office in the District is the largest in the country, with about 350 lawyers who prosecute local and federal crimes in D.C. Superior Court and U.S. District Court.
Before taking the interim position last year, Wainstein was chief of staff to FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III and was that agency's general counsel.
He also held the interim post at the U.S. attorney's office in 2001, before Bush nominated Howard.
Wainstein began work as a prosecutor in 1989 with the U.S. attorney's office in New York. He moved to the prosecutor's office in Washington in 1992.
He steadily rose through the ranks of the Washington office, especially during Lewis's tenure, when he handled several well-publicized cases, including the successful prosecution of Carl D. Cooper for three slayings at a Georgetown Starbucks coffeehouse in 1997.
While prosecuting a case in 1996, a murder defendant stabbed him in the hand while lunging at a government witness.
In August 2001, Wainstein became the Justice Department's director of the Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys.
This year, as interim U.S. attorney, he helped try a case in D.C. Superior Court, winning a conviction of a man accused of assault with intent to kill.
D.C. Police Chief Charles H. Ramsey said last night that Wainstein's experience as a prosecutor and top FBI official gives him a useful perspective for working with law enforcement officials.
"He's a person who's not afraid to step out there and get his office involved," Ramsey said. "He's a great asset for crime fighting in the area."