Greatness in not the right word for Rosenstein. Whatever happens today, he will never measure up to Attorney General Elliot Richardson, who was fired by President Richard Nixon for his refusal to dismiss Watergate Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox during the Saturday Night Massacre. But for whatever reason, and by whatever means, Rosenstein has grown immeasurably in the role he has played. He has become an essential bulwark in the defense of American institutions of the rule of law. He has held a deeply important line. And his departure would thus create a dangerous hole.
“Rod is a survivor,” James Comey once said privately of Rosenstein, not meaning it as a compliment. At this point, however, survival is a great virtue on Rosenstein’s part. Every day he stays put, Special Counsel Robert Mueller gets to do his job absent interference. Every day Rosenstein doesn’t resign buys the special counsel time. Every day Trump doesn’t fire him allows something roughly approximating the regular order to prevail at much of the Justice Department. The day Rosenstein is actually forced out will be a very bad day.