That departure from the president was a rare step for Mr. Barr, who had worked to undermine the most significant conclusions of the Russia investigation. 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.
Mr. Barr appointed a special prosecutor, John H. Durham, to inspect whether the inquiry was wrongfully opened and he sought the withdrawal of the prosecution of Michael T. Flynn, the president’s first national security adviser. He overruled prosecutors who requested a tough sentencing recommendation for Roger J. Stone Jr., one of Mr. Trump’s longtime advisers.
Mr. Trump also handed him sweeping declassification powers to learn about any intelligence gathered in 2016 about Russia’s election interference, giving Mr. Barr leverage to root around at the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies.
His tenure prompted a handful of career prosecutors to publicly criticize him, highly unusual actions that flouted Justice Department rules prohibiting employees from publicly discussing sensitive internal matters.
“Prosecutors are supposed to do their jobs without regard to party or politics,” Michael Dion, a prosecutor in Seattle, wrote in a letter to the editor in The Seattle Times. “Barr, however, is turning the Justice Department into a shield to protect the president and his henchmen.”
Mr. Barr publicly broke with Mr. Trump rarely; before his dismissal of voter fraud claims, the most prominent example came during the fight over Mr. Stone’s sentencing recommendation. After prosecutors recommended that Mr. Stone be imprisoned for seven to nine years for obstructing a congressional inquiry that threatened to embarrass the president, Mr. Trump publicly called it “horrible and very unfair.”
Mr. Barr’s intervention hours later prompted widespread criticism that the Justice Department was bending to White House pressure. In an effort to quell the criticism, Mr. Barr publicly responded that Mr. Trump’s comments made his job “impossible” by impairing his ability to act without facing accusations of bowing to political interference.