Mr. Barr “did an incredibly good job trying to repair damage to our Department of Justice, trying to be fair and faithful to the law and I think he’s got a lot to be proud of,” Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina and a close ally of Mr. Trump’s, told reporters who informed him of the news.
Mr. Barr, 70, who also served as attorney general in the George Bush administration, was viewed initially in Washington as a stabilizing force in the chaotic Trump era, but that expectation dissipated as he took aim at the Justice Department’s own investigation into the Trump campaign’s ties to Russia that had long antagonized the president.
Mr. Barr brought the Justice Department closer to the White House than any attorney general in a half-century. Defying the distance that federal law enforcement officials have typically maintained from campaign politics, Mr. Barr spent the months leading up to the election echoing Mr. Trump’s unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud. He also told an interviewer that the country would be “irrevocably committed to the socialist path” if the president were not re-elected.
But he backed off the warnings of voter fraud after the election, saying little publicly for weeks until he said that the department had received no evidence that would overturn Mr. Biden’s election. “To date, we have not seen fraud on a scale that could have effected a different outcome in the election,” Mr. Barr told The Associated Press.
Mr. Trump was also livid over Mr. Barr’s refusal to endorse his increasingly specious claims of voting irregularities, and he has become focused on whether any scrutiny of Hunter Biden was an issue that could have swayed voters, advisers said. He has told aides he would like to see a special counsel appointed to oversee the investigation into Hunter Biden. It was not clear whether Mr. Barr was willing to do so and a Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.
When The Wall Street Journal reported late last week that Mr. Barr had fought to keep the public from learning of the Justice Department’s investigations into Hunter Biden, following policy, it became clear that the attorney general could not stay in the post, advisers to Mr. Trump said.
The recent string of departures from the president were rare for Mr. Barr, who had worked from the start to advance Mr. Trump’s political agenda by undermining the most significant conclusions of the Russia investigation from the start. Weeks after taking office, he released a summary of the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, that a judge later called distorted and misleading, and he held a news conference just before the full report was released where he described it in the best possible light for Mr. Trump.