For now, though, there is no expectation at the Justice Department or the White House of an escalation to that level. While Lou Dobbs on Fox Business Network excoriated Mr. Barr for rebuking the president, other Fox hosts who have Mr. Trump’s ear, like Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, were generally supportive of the attorney general. Tucker Carlson, another trusted television personality, treated Mr. Barr’s ABC interview like a nonevent on his Fox News show Thursday night.
Ms. Ingraham, who is close to Mr. Barr, said the attorney general was not breaking with the president but, in effect, reassuring him that the Justice Department’s leadership would carry out Mr. Trump’s wishes to clean up what they see as the corruption of his predecessor and that the tweets were neither necessary nor helpful.
“Barr was basically telling Trump, ‘Don’t worry, I got this,’” Ms. Ingraham said on her show.
Some of the attorney general’s critics saw it the same way. Nine Democratic senators, including two presidential candidates, Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, sent a letter to Mr. Barr on Friday calling on him to resign.
His protestations of independence were not credible, they wrote, given his department’s behavior. “It demonstrates that you lied to Congress during your confirmation hearing when you stated that you would ‘keep the enforcement process sacrosanct from political influence,’ and it reveals your unwillingness or inability to maintain the integrity of the D.O.J. and to uphold justice and the rule of law,” the senators wrote.
Ms. Warren and three other Democratic senators also unveiled legislation barring an attorney general and other top Justice Department officials appointed by a president from participating in matters related to the president, his family or his campaign associates.
Although Mr. Trump and Mr. Barr both said the president has not directly asked for any specific inquiries, the president has long pressured law enforcement officials both publicly and privately to open investigations into political rivals and to drop inquiries into him or his associates.
Since Watergate, past presidents in both parties have had a tradition in place aimed at preventing political influence from the White House on Justice Department investigations, especially criminal inquiries that involved administration officials or friends of the president.