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Nigeria’s deal to drop Cheney charges called illegal

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Lawyers and media pundits in Nigeria are accusing the government of acting illegally by agreeing to settle criminal bribery charges against Dick Cheney out of court.

Nigeria charged Cheney and applied for an Interpol arrest warrant earlier this month in connection with a $180-million bribery case. Cheney’s former employer, Halliburton, reportedly agreed to pay $35 million to see the charges dropped.

But Nigeria could see as much as $250 million from the deal, in “the form of a deal to free up Nigerian money that had been locked away in Swiss bank accounts,” The Nation‘s John Nichols reports.

Critics of the deal say it has no basis in Nigerian law, which reportedly does not allow plea deals in criminals cases.

In a letter to Nigeria’s anti-corruption watchdog, Osuagwu Ugochukwu, a prominent lawyer in Abuja, said the withdrawal of charges against Cheney was a breach of the law.

“We know as a point of law that once a criminal charge has been filed in a competent court, issue of penalty of fine is for the courts to impose and not parties,” he wrote. “Hence, we are shocked to hear that EFCC imposed a fine on an accused person. We also know as a point of law that criminal matters cannot be settled out of court as in civil matters in Nigeria.”

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“The outcome of the deal with Halliburton tends to suggest a smart way of making quick money while leaving the culprits unpunished,” an editorial in Nigeria’s Daily Sun argues. “This method invariably has its own drawbacks that could encourage similar criminal acts in future.”

Indeed, many observers have likened the deal to an officially sanctioned bribe by Halliburton — or as a shake-down of the Texas-based oilfield services company by the Nigerian government.

Nigerian officials say they made the deal because they weren’t certain they could get a guilty verdict against Cheney. (KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton, pleaded guilty in a US court to the charges in 2009, but Cheney was not charged in that case.)

And, without addressing the move’s legality, the head of the anti-corruption watchdog agency defended the move, saying that it is a “best world practice” used in more developed countries.

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“The US and the UK governments are practicing it. Where you cannot successfully sustain a charge in court and you want to recover, then instead of losing the case, losing the money, then you opt for plea bargaining,” Farida Waziri, head of the watchdog agency, said, adding that the country’s “slow” judicial system also made the deal necessary.

KBR, until 2007 a subsidiary of Halliburton, was among companies that paid bribes to secure a $6 billion contract for a natural gas plant. The company pleaded guilty to the bribes in a US court in 2009, and agreed to pay a $382 million fine.

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Virginia Democrats are so fired up that the party chair had to scold them: ‘Sit down — be quit’

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Democrats in Virginia are fired up as they gathered in Richmond for their annual gala dinner.

Political analysts believe the Democratic Party of Virginia has a good chance to win control of the state legislature in 2019's election, before setting their sights on the Commonwealth continuing its recent trend of voting Democratic in presidential elections.

Patrick Wilson, a political reporter for the Richmond Times-Dispatch, attended the event.

He reported that Democrats were so "noisy" that it was hard to hear the speakers, which include presidential candidates Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg.

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‘Everyone knows what to expect’ at Trump’s Amway Center re-election kickoff

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Donald Trump considers himself a legendary salesman, but can he really sell America on giving him four more drama-filled years at the White House?

Tuesday, he'll make his big pitch.

The 2020 reelection kickoff rally is being held in Orlando, Florida and campaign operations chief Michael Glassner says the "historic" event "has already generated tens of thousands of ticketing requests."

There's little mystery about how the night will go down.

Expect Trump, the self-promoting hero of his ghost-written book "The Art of the Deal," to claim the US economy is richer, the military stronger, and the country more respected than ever in history.

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Florida man’s own family blasts him after he was arrested for racist threats: ‘This isn’t how we were raised’

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After a Florida man was arrested for trying to start a race war, a member of his own family slammed his values.

"A Florida man’s social media posts that threatened violence against African-Americans, Jews and homosexuals and that urged his followers to start a race war netted him a $1 million bond," the Miami Herald reported Saturday. "And then there’s another $100,000 bond he would have to pay to get out of Lee County Jail because of a weapons charge."

Joshua Leff, 40, is being held in the Lee County Jail.

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