He's a slimmer, balder, bespectacled version of Jimmy Stewart and just two weeks after going to Washington, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein has already helped President Trump fire FBI Director James Comey.
As a result, opponents have started calling Rosenstein a stooge, while supporters continue to describe the lanky lawyer as a straight arrow. But history will remember him as the man in charge of a probe into Russian electoral meddling.
Though a 27-year veteran of the Justice Department, Rosenstein remained in relative obscurity until a memorandum launched him into prominence late Tuesday night. In meticulous detail, he laid out the case for why Comey's handling of the Clinton email controversy disqualified the FBI director from keeping his job.
As the Washington Examiner noted, though, Rosenstein never explicitly recommended firing Comey. "Although the president has the power to remove the FBI director," he concluded, "the decision should not be taken lightly." Those who've worked with Rosenstein know that's no accident.
Whip smart, Rosenstein graduated first from the Wharton School and then Harvard Law School, where he edited the prestigious Harvard Law Review. "He's the poster child for the professional, competent, ethical and fair-minded prosecutor," retired federal defense lawyer Robert Bonsib told the Washington Post in 2011.
More than passing praise, that's a reputation that Rosenstein has cultivated at each rung of the legal ladder. He began his career as a trial attorney in the Justice Department during the Clinton administration and eventually rose to the rank of United States Attorney for Maryland during the last Bush administration.
Known for avoiding partisanship, as NBC News recently observed, the clean-nosed lawyer has survived four previous administrations. The Trump White House makes five and marks his highest ebb. On April 25, he was confirmed as Deputy Attorney General by an overwhelming 94-6 vote.
Democrat Sens. Chris Van Hollen and Ben Cardin of Maryland both shepherded his nomination through the upper chamber. "Mr. Rosenstein has earned a reputation as a fair and focused administrator of justice," Van Hollen said of the Republican nominee ahead of confirmation. And it's easy to understand how the senator reached that conclusion.
Anecdotes about the lawyer's hard-edged honesty abound. When he took heat for investigating Prince George Country Executive Jack B. Johnson in 2011, Rosenstein brushed off the criticism, telling media that his office "doesn't do fishing trips." And a few months later, he helped convict Johnson of corruption charges related to more than $1 million in bribes.
But Rosenstein has done his best to remain humble. Asked how he explains his job to his two young daughters, Rosenstein explained, in an interview recently unearthed by the New York Daily News, that he tells them, "I help catch the bad guys."
Soon Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and company might not agree. They've recently reversed course and tried to remake the former FBI director into a martyr. And since Tuesday night, Democrats have renewed their demands for the Justice Department to name a special prosecutor to investigate possible collusion between Trump and the Russians.
But they're insisting that the deputy attorney general play no part in that process. "Mr. Rosenstein cannot be the person to appoint [a special prosecutor]," Schumer said during a floor speech. "Serious doubts have been cast on Mr. Rosenstein's impartiality."
No doubt the next few months will determine the lawyer's legacy. Perhaps history will only remember that Rosenstein bore an uncanny resemblance to Jimmy Stewart.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.