Release of long-awaited Mueller report on Russia a watershed moment for Trump

US President Donald Trump has described the 22-month investigation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller, above, into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia as a ‘witch hunt.’ (AP)
Updated 18 April 2019
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Release of long-awaited Mueller report on Russia a watershed moment for Trump

  • Attorney General William Barr would hold a news conference Thursday morning to discuss the report
  • Copies of the report will be delivered to Capitol Hill more than an hour later

WASHINGTON: Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s long-awaited report on Russia’s role in the 2016 US election will be released on Thursday, providing the first public look at the findings of an inquiry that has cast a shadow over Donald Trump’s presidency.
Attorney General William Barr’s planned release of the nearly 400-page report comes after Mueller wrapped up his 22-month investigation last month into the Trump campaign’s contacts with Russia and questions about obstruction of justice by the president.
Its disclosure, with portions expected to be blacked out by Barr to protect some sensitive information, is certain to launch a new political fight spilling into the halls of Congress and the 2020 presidential campaign trail, as Trump seeks re-election in a deeply divided country.
The release marks a watershed moment in Trump’s presidency, promising new details about some of the biggest questions in the probe, including the extent and nature of his campaign’s contacts with Russia and actions Trump may have taken to hinder the inquiry including his 2017 firing of FBI Director James Comey.
It also may deepen an already bitter partisan rift between Trump’s fellow Republicans, most of whom have rallied around the president, and his Democratic critics, who will have to decide how hard to go after Trump as they prepare congressional investigations of his administration.
Barr said he would hold a news conference at 9:30 a.m. (1330 GMT) on Thursday to discuss the report, along with Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who appointed Mueller as special counsel in May 2017.
Copies of the report will be delivered to Capitol Hill more than an hour later, between 11 a.m. and noon (1500-1600 GMT), a senior Justice Department official said. The delay in seeing the report sparked Democratic complaints that Barr, a Trump appointee, wanted to shape the public’s views during his news conference before others had a chance to draw their own conclusions.
Early on Thursday, top congressional Democrats called on Mueller to testify publicly about his investigation, criticizing Barr’s rollout of the report.
“We believe the only way to begin restoring public trust in the handling of the Special Counsel’s investigation is for Special Counsel Mueller himself to provide public testimony in the House and Senate as soon as possible,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer said in a statement.
Mueller’s investigation, which Trump has called a “witch hunt,” raised questions about the legitimacy of Trump’s presidency and laid bare what the special counsel and US intelligence agencies have described as a Russian operation to derail Democrat Hillary Clinton’s candidacy and elevate Trump, the Kremlin’s preferred candidate.
Some Democrats have spoken of launching impeachment proceedings against Trump in Congress, allowed under the US Constitution to remove a president from office for “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors,” but top Democrats have been notably cautious.
Mueller charged 34 people and three Russian companies. Those who were convicted or pleaded guilty included figures close to Trump such as his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, personal lawyer Michael Cohen and national security adviser Michael Flynn.
Mueller submitted the report to Barr on March 22. Two days later, Barr sent lawmakers a four-page letter saying the inquiry did not establish that Trump’s 2016 campaign team engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Russia and that Mueller had not exonerated Trump of committing the crime of obstruction of justice. Barr subsequently concluded that Trump had not committed obstruction of justice.
Since Barr released that letter, Trump has claimed “complete and total exoneration,” and condemned the inquiry as “an illegal takedown that failed.” At a March 28 rally in Michigan, Trump said that “after three years of lies and smears and slander, the Russia hoax is finally dead.”
Citing people with knowledge of the discussions, the New York Times reported on Wednesday that White House lawyers held talks with US Justice Department officials in recent days about the conclusions in Mueller’s report, aiding them in preparing for its release.
Justice Department regulations gave Barr broad authority to decide how much of Mueller’s report to make public, but Democrats have demanded the entire report as well as the underlying investigative files. Barr is due to testify to Congress in public about the report in early May.
The Justice Department has been working for weeks to prepare the redactions, which will be color coded to reflect the reason material is omitted.
Barr said he would redact parts to protect secret grand jury information, intelligence-gathering sources and methods, material that could affect ongoing investigations and information that unduly infringes on the privacy of “peripheral third parties” who were not charged.
Democrats are concerned that Barr, appointed by Trump after the president fired former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, could black out material to protect the president.
The release comes as both parties gear up for the November 2020 presidential election. Trump already has launched his campaign for a second four-year term, and a crowded field of Democrats has formed to seek the nomination to challenge him.


Dharavi slum beats Taj Mahal as India’s top tourist destination

Updated 25 June 2019
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Dharavi slum beats Taj Mahal as India’s top tourist destination

  • The squalid district was featured in Oscar-winning movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire’
  • Tour groups to Dharavi normally consist of around five to six people, with visitors guided through its cramped alleys

NEW DELHI: One of the world’s biggest slums, located in Mumbai, has pipped the famous Taj Mahal to become India’s favorite tourist destination.

Dharavi, where close to 1 million people live in an area of just over 2.1 square kilometers, was named by travel website TripAdvisor.com as the 2019 top visitor experience in India and among the 10 most favorite tourist sites in Asia.

The slum has grown up on swamp land in the center of the coastal city of Mumbai over the past 150 years and has poor infrastructure and a lack of basic sanitation and hygiene facilities.

The squalid district was featured in the 2008 Oscar-winning movie “Slumdog Millionaire,” which tells the story of a Mumbai teenager accused of cheating on the Indian version of TV gameshow “Who Wants to be a Millionaire.”

However, in 2012, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Katherine Boo portrayed a new side of life in the slum in her book “Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Slum,” which showed it bubbling with hope in a changing world.

The recent Bollywood movie “Gully Boy” also gives the slum a new look with a coming-of-age tale based on the lives of street rappers.

“Slum tourism started in 2003 for the first time but it picked up after the movie ‘Slumdog Millionaire,’” said Dinesh Bhurara, who runs travel agency Mumbai Dream Tours.

“Dharavi is not like a slum, but it is a city within the city. It is well-organized and people from all communities and religions coexist together. They work very hard. When tourists come, they see a new life in the slum which they don’t see in Mumbai and outside. This connects with foreigners,” Bhurara told Arab News.

Bhurara, 24, was born and brought up in Dharavi and started his travel business three years ago after gaining experience with other tour operators.

“People have lots of misconceptions about Dharavi. Movies like ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ stereotyped the slum by showing its poverty, underbelly and by typecasting characters. But it’s not like that. When tourists visit it’s an eye-opener for them,” he added.

Tour groups to Dharavi normally consist of around five to six people, with visitors guided through its cramped alleys, and shown around houses and businesses.

“For tourists this is an educational tour. They learn how business is done here, and how people survive with their sheer efforts and aspirations. They also go to business and industry areas,” said Bhurara.

The peak season to visit Dharavi is between November and May with travel agents recording an average of 200 foreigners touring the slum every day during the season.

Bhurara charges 700 rupees ($10) per person for a four-hour trip to Dharavi and has five partners who run the tours with him. “When we take tourists inside the slum, we not only take them into an area, but we also take them into our lives and show them how life can exist even in this space. Many get inspired and are awestruck by the sheer energy inside the slum.”

He said the tourist influx had encouraged many Dharavi youngsters to learn foreign languages as a way to earn a living and he himself had taken up Spanish.

According to Bhurara the majority of tourists are from Europe and China. “People in Dharavi are now attuned to foreigners visiting them and they really appreciate that. For youngsters it’s an extra opportunity to earn some more. So many college students pick up foreign languages to earn something extra,” he added.

Dharavi is a hub of small industries with exports of leather and recycled goods reportedly worth $1 billion a year. More than 4,000 businesses operate there alongside thousands of single-room factories where migrants workers from eastern and western India are employed.

“Many people, even in Mumbai, are not aware of this part of Dharavi,” Vinay Rawat, a tour operator, told Arab News. “In Mumbai people come to see the most expensive house of the industrialist Mukesh Ambani and they also want to see the cheapest place in Mumbai which is Dharavi.”

Rawat added that wealthy people lived in Dharavi where new high-rise buildings had been constructed. He said people had lived there for four generations but that there were fears that the prime land could fall into the hands of property developers.