OK, this is a first-twitch response. Probably have to eat it–and my hat–soon.
So far, and we’ll have to wait a while to b sure, Robert Mueller has not objected to Attorney General William Barr’s summary of his findings. The BBC’s Anthony Zurcher opines that the one sentence quote from the Mueller report on “conspiracy” is as close as lawyer-speak allows to a complete exoneration. Without an underlying crime, it is difficult to distinguish between simply defending oneself against a loose-cannon investigator and obstruction of justice.
Mueller reports that the Russians tried to “collude,” but the Trump campaign wouldn’t cooperate. This was clear a year ago in the testimony of Papodopoulos. Also, there’s plenty of evidence that the Russkies tried to help Trump. Just no evidence that a) the Trump campaign cooperated or–so far as I know–b) it made any difference. Jane Mayer will disagree with that latter remark.
I think that we’re still waiting on a Department of Justice Inspector-General’s report on how the Trump investigation began. The same IG evaluated the work of James Comey on the HRC investigation, and then evaluated the behavior of Peter Strozk. So, we’ll know more then.
Bear in mind that the Russians could have identified Christopher Steele as an American government agent during 2015-2016. At the behest of the Department of Justice, Steele took a pass at Oleg Deripaska. Deripaska probably grassed to Putin. I don’t recall seeing Steele’s expenses for things like massive payments to Russians in exchange for state secrets. (I’m assuming that revealing state secrets when Vladimir Putin tends to kill–in gruesome fashion–anyone who leaks information required monetary compensation. But what do I know? Perhaps there are many Russian government officials so deeply concerned that Donald Trump might become president that they were willing to get Putinium added to their tea. Or perhaps Steele got his “dossier” under the Old Pals Act.) Failing those alternative possibilities, anything Steele got from the Russians after that may have been a Russkie plant intended to mess with the 2016 election. Mueller did not investigate that possibility. I wish he had.