A Brazilian congressional report recommended on Tuesday that unelected President Michel Temer “should not face trial for obstruction of justice and membership in a criminal organization,” arguing that the charges against him were “unfounded.”
The report by Congressman Bonifacio de Andrada, a “Temer ally,” also recommended shelving charges against two of his cabinet ministers stemming from a corruption case involving bribes paid by meatpacker JBS SA.
The constitutional and legal affairs committee in Brazil’s Congress was expected to approve the report next week. The full lower house, which has the power to decide whether a president should be put on trial by the Supreme Court, will likely close the case a week later.
That victory for Temer would all but ensure that Brazil’s most unpopular modern-day president will survive the crisis and serve out his term through the end of 2018. But fighting off the charges has seriously delayed and could derail the president’s alleged efforts to “balance Brazil’s government accounts.”
Temer took office last year after the impeachment of his leftist predecessor Dilma Rousseff in an political maneuver. He vowed to “clean up” the government in the midst of Brazil’s “worst corruption scandal.”
Instead he was accused of taking bribes and condoning the payment of hush money to a jailed politician in plea bargain testimony by Joesley Batista, an owner of JBS, the world’s largest meatpacker.
Temer has denied any wrongdoing and his lawyers argued that the case against him was flawed because it was based on one man’s word and an inconclusive recording that Batista secretly made of a conversation with the president.
Andrada said the charges were based on “bogus” plea bargain statements that do not warrant criminal prosecution.
“There is no evidence of a criminal organization, but rather political activities that are being treated as criminal acts,” he said in his report that he read out to the committee.
Temer aides said they were confident the chamber would shelve the charges by a bigger margin than its rejection of an earlier corruption charge on August 2 by 263-227 votes, when it needed only 172 votes to throw the case out.