The man who had his new job for just two weeks before recommending FBI Director James Comey be fired never had a reputation as a troublemaker.
By all accounts, he was quite the opposite.
Rod Rosenstein, who started serving as the deputy U.S. attorney general two weeks ago, entered the job with a reputation as a fair and uncontroversial man of the law — hardly the kind of guy who would have a hand in a potential constitutional crisis.
Colleagues compared him to a Jimmy Stewart character — an ordinary man fighting for just causes.
Even his confirmation for the A.G. spot showed his good bipartisan standing. The Senate vote was 94 to 6.
Rosenstein, like Trump, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. After earning a law degree from Harvard, where he was editor of the Harvard Law Review, he joined the Department of Justice in 1990.
Rosenstein steadily rose through ranks and President George W. Bush nominated him to serve as the U.S. Attorney for Maryland in 2005. The Senate unanimously confirmed him and President Obama kept him on the job.
In Maryland, Rosenstein oversaw dramatic drops in violent crime and, in vigilant prosecution of corrupt cops, showed a belief that no one was above the law.
He spoke humbly of his tough work. The Baltimore Business Journal, in a 2007 Q&A that noted Rosenstein had “steered clear of most controversy,” asked how he explained his job to his daughters.
“I tell them that I help catch the bad guys,” he replied.
A 2011 Washington Post profile called him “fair, methodical and detail-oriented,” and said even his rivals talked him up as a “real-life version of a Jimmy Stewart character.”
“He is the poster child for the professional, competent, ethical and fair-minded prosecutor,” former federal prosecutor Robert Bonsib told the Post.
The accolades kept coming when Trump in January nominated Rosenfeld as the number two to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
Even as most of Trump’s nominees faced steep Senate opposition, politicians on the left and right seemed pleased with Rosenstein getting his due. Constitutional law professor Jonathan Adler wrote in a Washington Post op-ed that Rosenstein was “a fabulous choice for this position, and one that should be completely free of controversy.”
The Maryland State’s Attorneys’ Association wrote in a letter of support that Rosenstein “does not care if you are a ‘D’ or an ‘R,’ he has only cared about making this State a safer place.”
“Rod makes decisions based upon the law, the evidence, logic and reason, never allowing emotion or passion to move him from his core mission,” the letter assured.
During his confirmation hearings, Rosenstein told Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer that, if necessary, he would appoint a special counsel for the FBI’s investigation into the Trump campaign’s alleged Russia connections.
Just two weeks into the job, Rosenstein suddenly plunged into action that seems to contradict his public character.
He wrote the memo recommending Comey be fired, arguing that the FBI director’s conduct in the Clinton probe was indispensable.
“I cannot defend the director’s handling of the conclusion of the investigation of Secretary Clinton’s emails and I do not understand his refusal to accept the nearly universal judgment that he was mistaken,” Rosenstein wrote in the Tuesday note.
“Almost everyone agrees that the director made serious mistakes; it is one of the few issues that unites people of diverse perspectives.”
Trump kicked Comey out later that day.