Brazil's Attorney General Rodrigo Janot on Monday formally accused President Michel Temer of corruption in what is expected to be the first in a series of criminal charges against the unpopular leader.
In the recording, Temer was heard saying after being informed that hush money was being paid to the former head of the lower house, Eduardo Cunha, "Look, you've got to keep that up".
Lawmakers within Temer's coalition are confident they have the votes to block the two-third majority required to proceed with a trial. In this case, Mr. Temer would be removed from power for a term which may extend to 180 days. He could file those charges at a later date, guaranteeing a sustained legal assault.
In his first comments since returning from a trip to Russian Federation and Norway, the president was defiant. However, hours earlier he'd declared: "Nothing will destroy us - not me and not our ministers".
Temer's latest approval ratings are just seven percent, lower even than his leftist predecessor Dilma Rousseff, whom he replaced a year ago when she was impeached and removed from office by his congressional allies. In a statement he sent to reinforce the need for his former assistant Rodrigo Rocha Loures's imprisonment, Janot additionally condemned Temer. But with each new charge, the Chamber of Deputies must vote anew, and many foresee Temer's support eroding each time lawmakers are forced to publicly defend him - particularly with their own nationwide elections approaching next year, Reuters notes. There is no clear candidate to take his place on an interim basis before scheduled elections in October 2018, and numerous major figures in Congress are themselves battling corruption allegations.
Janot's indictment was widely expected and markets mostly met them with a shrug on Tuesday.
The new accusations against Temer are the latest in a widespread scourge of corruption in the Brazilian government known as the "Car Wash" investigation, the bulk of which stems from politicians accepting bribes from companies seeking contracts with state-run enterprises.
The survey also shows that 81% of the country's population said the Batista brothers should have been arrested for the crimes they had confessed while 14% said they should not have been sentenced to jail. Batista reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors.
Meanwhile, former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva would win the 2018 presidential election, although his candidacy is not yet official, according to the Datafolha Institute.
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