California gets ready for more wildfires and power outages

Just as firefighters got a grip on a blaze that tore through the swanky Pacific Palisades, other Californians are at risk of unpredictable wildfires this week.

About 209,000 customers could have their power shut off this week mitigate the risk, Pacific Gas & Electric said.

“The potential safety shutoff is planned for varying start times depending on location beginning Wednesday evening,” the company said.

The power shutoff could affect 15 counties in the Sierra Foothills and the North Bay, including Amador, Butte, Calaveras, El Dorado, Lake, Mendocino, Napa, Nevada, Placer, Plumas, San Mateo, Sierra, Sonoma, Sutter, and Yuba counties, PG&E said.

Customers will be notified by texts, emails and automated phone calls about 48 hours in advance.

A combination of gusty winds, dry grass and dead and dying trees are fueling the fire risk, and therefore the need for possible power shutoffs, PG&E said.

4 parents in college admissions scam flip to guilty plea

Four parents who initially fought charges in the college admissions scam have agreed to plead guilty over the past few days, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the District of Massachusetts.

The plea changes come as federal prosecutors are expected to file additional charges against some defendants who pleaded not guilty in the case, a law enforcement official told CNN. The additional charges, which are said to include bribery, could be filed as early as Tuesday, according to the official.

Douglas Hodge, Manuel Henriquez, Elizabeth Henriquez and Michelle Janavs have each agreed to plead guilty to conspiracy fraud and conspiracy to commit money laundering, prosecutors said. All four have plea hearings set for Monday.

The threat of future charges reflects prosecutors’ carrot-and-stick approach to this case as they use potential charges to try to get defendants to plead guilty.

Trump calls impeachment inquiry a ‘lynching’

President Donald Trump on Tuesday called House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry a “lynching,” employing a term associated with the extrajudicial killings of African-Americans while calling on Republicans to aid his political defense.

“So some day, if a Democrat becomes President and the Republicans win the House, even by a tiny margin, they can impeach the President, without due process or fairness or any legal rights. All Republicans must remember what they are witnessing here — a lynching. But we will WIN!” the President tweeted.

Trump has repeatedly railed against the probe, calling it a “witch hunt” and a “fraud,” but Tuesday marks his first use of the term “lynching,” which is associated with a period of horrific racial violence in the United States, in regard to the inquiry. Following Emancipation and the Civil War, killings, often carried out in public settings, known as lynchings, terrorized newly freed black Americans. Thousands of citizens were killed this way.

Defense secretary says troops in Syria will ‘temporarily’ go to Iraq

Defense Secretary Mark Esper said Tuesday that American troops ordered out of northern Syria will “temporarily” go to Iraq before they return to the U.S., and that President Donald Trump has not yet approved a plan to keep some troops in Syria to protect oil fields.

“We’re conducting a phased withdrawal — deliberate phased withdrawal from northeast Syria,” Esper told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in an exclusive interview held at the Prince Sultan Air Base, located in a desert area east of the Saudi capital of Riyadh. “We will temporarily reposition in Iraq pursuant to bringing the troops home. And so it’s just one part of a continuing phase, but eventually those troops are going to come home.”

The Iraqi Joint Operations Command said in a statement Tuesday that U.S. troops withdrawing from Syria may enter the Kurdish region of Iraq and then leave the country, but that they do not have permission to remain in Iraq.

McConnell introduces resolution opposing U.S. withdrawal from SyriaSenate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other top Republican senators introduced a resolution Tuesday in opposition to President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from Syria, warning that his decision has benefited Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, ISIS, Russia and Iran.

“If not arrested, withdrawing from Syria will invite more of the chaos that breeds terrorism and creates a vacuum our adversaries will certainly fill,” McConnell said on the Senate floor.

McConnell said if the President doesn’t halt the withdrawal, Russia “will gain more leverage” in the Middle East, Iran-backed forces could gain greater access to a “strategic corridor that runs all the way from Tehran to the very doorstep of Israel” and the Assad regime will be invited to “reassert its oppressive control” over northeastern Syria.

—From wire reports

He also urged Trump to rescind his invitation of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House until a “more enduring cease-fire” is struck between Turkish and Kurdish forces.

The measure tries to tie the hands of the commander-in-chief by requiring the President to report to Congress that ISIS and al Qaeda have been defeated “before initiating any further significant withdrawal” of US troops from the region.

McConnell did not say when the Senate would take up the resolution.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr said Congress “didn’t have an opportunity” to work out its disagreements with the administration before the president made his decision.

“Congress has a voice,” said Burr, a Republican from North Carolina. “And now is the time ... to exercise it.”

After Trump’s announcement, Turkey advanced into Syria in order to force out Kurdish forces it views as terrorists from parts northeastern Syria, where it would like to resettle around 2 million Syrian refugees.

Republicans and Democrats have strongly protested Trump’s decision to remove troops from Syria and position many of them in western Iraq, voting 354-60 in the House on a separate resolution opposing the pullout.

But there’s disagreements in Congress over how to try to pressure the administration and Turkey to reverse their moves.

While McConnell has strongly condemned Turkey’s incursion into Syria, he urged Congress on Tuesday to consider the repercussions of punishing a NATO ally in the same way the US punishes “rogue states.” He cautioned his colleagues to evaluate whether the sanctions would also hurt US companies or its allies.

The strongest proponents of sanctioning Turkey objected to McConnell’s comments.

Sen. Chris Van Hollen, a Democrat from Maryland, said that a ceasefire between Turkey and Kurds will soon end and warned that Erdogan “has said he will resume the slaughter of our allies, the Syrian Kurds, and will engage in ethnic cleansing.”

“This is no time for dithering,” said Van Hollen. “We need to impose bipartisan sanctions now.”