If the firing of former FBI director James Comey is part of a Trump administration plot to foil the investigation into Russian election meddling—as many of the president’s opponents have alleged—Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein is an odd conspirator. In a three-page memo reportedly pivotal to President Trump’s decision, Rosenstein wrote that the director had to go if the agency hoped to “regain public and congressional trust.” Those are damning words from a man whose integrity has been compared to that of Jimmy Stewart, the actor who portrayed egoless small-town heroes driven by bygone ideals: of right and wrong, and black and white in a world gone increasing gray.
Just last week, Rosenstein was relatively unknown to the American public. And only the week before that had he been appointed to the position of deputy attorney general, a role that put him at the head of the investigation into alleged connections between the Trump administration and Russia. His confirmation late last month, although part of a contentious transition, came with wide bipartisan support. He has served under five presidents, and he was one of only three U.S. attorneys—out of 93 nationwide—asked to stay on when the White House switched hands from George W. Bush to Barack Obama. He is meek in appearance and mild in tone. In his prior office as U.S. attorney for Maryland, beside a photo of his family, he kept a plaque on the wall that read: “Don’t tell me what I want to hear. Just tell me what I need to know.”