For White House, Ukraine revelations rooted in Chicago bribery case

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Ukraine isn't just the venue of a U.S. presidential battle royal.

One of the Eastern European nation's wealthiest power brokers has been at the center of a blockbuster legal case in Chicago. Now, in what may be considered peculiar timing, one of President Donald Trump's most trusted attorney-advisers has joined the legal defense team of Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash.

Joseph diGenova will join former Chicago U.S. Attorney Dan Webb on the Firtash defense team. DiGenova is a former federal prosecutor in Washington, a cable TV legal commentator and has been a part-time legal adviser to Trump.

He was an outspoken critic of the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller into allegations of Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential campaign. DiGenova's wife and law firm partner Victoria Toensing has also signed onto the case.

RELATED: Gas titan Dmitry Firtash appears headed to Chicago to stand trial in titanium scandal

Two years before Mr. Trump even announced his 2016 candidacy, Firtash - a gas industry tycoon - was indicted in Chicago on bribery racketeering charges by a federal grand jury in Chicago. Firtash has been under what amounts to house arrest in Vienna, Austria, as he is still the subject of a high-stakes extradition fight by the U.S. attorney here.

Now, as the president prepares to fend off an impeachment effort focusing on a phone call with the Ukraine president, the Firtash case in Chicago becomes more conspicuous with Trump-linked defense attorneys defending a Ukrainian business magnate with deep ties to Russia.

The uber-wealthy Firtash was once involved in a potential real estate deal with former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who's serving a lengthy prison sentence for conspiracy.

Firtash has been battling a Justice Department extradition request to Chicago, where has was charged in the 2013 case involving an alleged scheme to bribe officials in India to secure titanium mining contracts. ABC7's I-Team has reported accusations that the mining racket was for a deal with Chicago-based Boeing, but the aerospace giant hasn't been implicated in the case.

RELATED: Judge clears way for Ukrainian gas mogul Dmitry Firtash extradition to Chicago

His removal from Vienna was set for early July after a ruling by Austria's Supreme Court seemed to clear the way. But Firtash has yet to set foot in Chicago following a new review of the extradition case ordered at the request of his attorneys.

There is no apparent connection between Firtash and the allegations of Russian election meddling in 2016, even though the Russia special counsel Robert Mueller sought out information from Firtash concerning Manafort.

Dan Webb, who continues to represent Firtash in the bribery case, has said that Firtash wasn't cooperating with Mueller's investigation of Manafort.

Webb is based in Chicago, while Toensing and diGenova are based in Washington.
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