Rudy Giuliani Admits He ‘Did Sort of Look at’ Ukrainian Oligarch Dmitry Firtash for Info

Rudy Giuliani Admits He ‘Did Sort of Look at’ Ukrainian Oligarch Dmitry Firtash for InfoGeorges Schneider/AFP/GettyVictoria Toensing and Joe DiGenova, the pro-Trump lawyers representing a Ukrainian oligarch wanted by U.S. authorities on conspiracy charges, reportedly met personally with Attorney General William Barr in July—at the height of Rudy Giuliani’s hunt for kompromat on Joe Biden in Ukraine.  Citing three sources familiar with the meeting, The Washington Post reports that diGenova and Toensing argued against the charges facing Dmitry Firtash—who has been described by federal prosecutors as having connections to the “upper echelons” of Russian organized crime—in the meeting with Barr and other Justice Department officials. Barr is said to have refused to intercede. Firtash, who has been fighting extradition to the U.S. on bribery and corruption charges from Vienna for more than five years, had only recently hired Toensing and diGenova at the time of the reported meeting. According to Bloomberg, he paid them $1 million earlier this year to dig up dirt on Biden in a bid to get Giuliani’s help with his legal woes. While Giuliani has maintained he never had anything to do with Firtash’s case, Firtash reportedly bankrolled at least one piece of opposition research that Giuliani would later hold up on cable news as proof of Biden’s wrongdoing: a witness statement from Viktor Shokin, Ukraine’s former prosecutor general, claiming the former vice president had him fired to protect his son from a corruption investigation. Giuliani told the Post that he “did sort of look at Firtash to see if he had any relevant information” that could help with his search for damaging information about Democrats. “As far as I can tell, he didn’t. I looked at maybe 20 of these oligarchs.”A Justice Department spokeswoman said the Firtash case “has the support of the department leadership” and said DOJ would “continue to work closely with the Austrian Ministry of Justice to extradite Mr. Firtash.” Toensing reportedly declined to comment on the Barr meeting.The Post also reports that prosecutors in Chicago who filed the bribery charges against Firtash in 2013 had previously come across two of Giuliani’s recently arrested associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, in their case. Prosecutors there are now said to be reviewing whether there is a larger relationship between Firtash and the Soviet-born businessmen accused of campaign finance violations. Parnas and Fruman, who were reportedly enlisted by Giuliani to help find dirt on Trump’s political opponents in Ukraine, are accused of making an illicit campaign donation in a bid to have the then-U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, removed. Giuliani claimed he did not know whether Firtash, Parnas, and Fruman had a relationship. “It’s none of my business,” he told the Post. Lawyers for Parnas and Fruman have not publicly spoken about their clients’ potential ties to Firtash.Firtash reportedly hired both Toensing and diGenova this summer at the recommendation of Parnas, who is said to have worked as a translator for Toensing and diGenova in the Firtash case. A Toensing and diGenova spokesman said Firtash had “no business relationship” with Parnas or Fruman. “No money has been paid to Mr. Parnas by Mr. Firtash beyond his work as a translator for the law firm,” the spokesman said.Parnas and Fruman were both arrested at a D.C. airport before they boarded one-way flights to Vienna earlier this month. Giuliani told The Atlantic that he also intended on going to Vienna just one day after Parnas and Fruman were scheduled to depart the U.S.Indicted Oligarch Dmytro Firtash Praises Paul Manafort, Says Trump Has Third-Grade SmartsRead more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

'I'm in charge of the Hatch Act': Trump lashes out at chief of staff over potential ethics violations, report says

'I'm in charge of the Hatch Act': Trump lashes out at chief of staff over potential ethics violations, report saysDonald Trump reportedly told a room of his top aides that he is in charge of the Hatch Act, when warned by his chief of staff that bringing his cabinet members to a campaign rally could violate ethics rules.The comment, reported in a new Wall Street Journal article, illustrates the degree to which Mr Trump believes his administration does not have to worry about the rule, which was passed a century ago with the intention of warding off political activity by government employees.

California: PG&E warns of fresh power shutoffs for 500,000 due to fire weather

California: PG&E warns of fresh power shutoffs for 500,000 due to fire weatherUtility began notifying customers it could begin shutoffs as early as Wednesday and any blackouts would last at least 48 hoursFirefighters battle the Saddleridge fire in Porter Ranch, California, on 11 October. Photograph: Gene Blevins/ReutersLess than two weeks after cutting power to large swathes of northern California, the state’s largest utility is warning that dangerous fire weather could prompt it to shut off power again to about a half-million people.Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) began notifying customers Monday that it could begin precautionary shutoffs to parts of 16 counties as early as Wednesday, mostly in the Sierra foothills and to the north of the San Francisco Bay Area.Any blackouts would last at least 48 hours, the utility said.The utility is concerned that winds forecast to hit 60mph at times could throw branches and debris into power lines or topple them, sparking wildfires. PG&E equipment has been blamed for igniting several of California’s deadliest and most destructive blazes in recent years, including the deadly 2018 Camp fire. The utility, facing billions in potential claims, was forced into bankruptcy.However, the PG&E CEO, Bill Johnson, said the shutdown was about safety, not money.“The sole intent is to prevent a catastrophic wildfire,” he said.A huge portion of southern California is under high fire risk amid unpredictable gusts and soaring temperatures.At least three homes were damaged or destroyed Monday evening by wind-whipped flames in a mountain community near San Bernardino in inland southern California. Earlier in the day Los Angeles firefighters beat back a blaze as it raced up canyon walls toward multimillion-dollar ocean-view homes on a coastal ridge. The Palisades fire led to evacuation orders for roughly 200 homes, and two people were injured, authorities said. An estimated 40 acres were burned, but residents were able to return home in the evening.Officials across southern California said they were bracing for continued fire weather this week due to dangerous winds.“This could be one of our most critical weeks of the fall season for fire weather due to very warm temperatures and bouts of Santa Ana winds,” the National Weather Service said in a statement.Southern California Edison, which had warned of possible safety outages at any time, announced Monday evening that none would take place in the next 48 hours but said that it was monitoring the weather.“Weather conditions might be different for Thursday,” and in that case, notification would be given Tuesday, said Edison spokeswoman Sally Jeun.Authorities issued red flag warnings for parts of northern California on Tuesday, including the North Bay, East Bay and Santa Cruz mountains, with critical fire weather expected on Wednesday and Thursday.PG&E’s phone, text and email warnings to 200,000 homes and businesses came about 10 days after more than 2 million people had their lights turned off by the utility when powerful winds whipped up.The shutoffs earlier this month caused schools to close and many businesses to shutter. Residents complained PG&E communicated late and ineffectively about those power outages, even failing to keep its website running smoothly.California’s governor, Gavin Newsom, blasted PG&E for the unprecedented size of the blackout and the communication problems. “They’re in bankruptcy due to their terrible management going back decades. They’ve created these conditions, it was unnecessary,” Newsom said about PG&E. “This can’t be the new normal.”The shutoffs revealed the depth of California’s infrastructure problems amid a growing climate crisis. “What is clear is whatever this giant mess is, it’s not in any way acceptable or sustainable,” Costa Samaras, a climate resilience researcher and analyst, and associate professor at Carnegie Mellon University told the Guardian earlier this month.Andy Vesey, a PG&E executive, said last week that the utility didn’t think broadly enough and underestimated the needs of their customers and local governments.“We have to develop a mindset, or culture, of anticipation,” he said.