I think your initial surmise — based on how he said it, not how it looks on paper, without inflection and body language etc — was correct.
Why do I assume Barr is the liar? Because he has a demonstrable record of deceit, going back to Iran/contra, not to mention his behavior day in and day out since starting his encore as AG. Whereas Mueller’s record and reputation are impeccable.
This was not a pure law enforcement inquiry, and Barr’s repeated attempts to portray it as such (a binary choice, indict or don’t, etc) are utterly dishonest. As Mueller made clear, this is a special case in which the chief subject of the investigation CANNOT be charged. So it is nothing like a simple matter of finding evidence of a crime and charging or not. Quite the opposite in fact. Which is why Mueller took to the mic to make it clear that this is a matter for Congress to decide, and that he has always seen it that way.
A valid question, however, is why he didn’t have a spokesman like Peter Carr make that clear from the start, the better to manage everyone’s expectations.
I was going to note that your animosity toward Mueller — and your generosity toward Barr — are self-evident, and ask why you see things that way, but your tale about a Brennan/CIA plot to help HRC win answered my question. The sequence of events you describe is complete speculation shot through with partisan hysteria at best, and more accurately described as an absurd Trumpian fairy tale. (We can start with the supposition that Moscow was working against Trump, when it is abundantly clear that the opposite was the case, or your use of the word “spying” — echoing Barr — to describe authorized government surveillance, or the idea that the entire SCO probe was part of some sort of deep state coup.) Mueller is a rube entangled in the swamp? YGBSM. There’s a swamp all right, but its denizens are mostly members of Trump’s cabinet.
I continually hear from Trump supporters (and apologists claiming to be neutral) that a shoe is about to drop and we’re going to see Comey, Hillary, et all frogmarched off in chains any day now. I don’t rule it out….but not because of the tinfoil hatted QAnon conspiracy theory. Only when I see things like Trump giving Barr carte blanche over the IC and authority to declassify intel in order to further this false narrative they are attempting to foist on the American people.