Brazil chief justice allows investigation of Bolsonaro on Moro charges

Brazil’s popular justice minister, Sérgio Moro, resigned last week after saying Bolsonaro had fired the country’s top police commander to hamper police investigations into his supporters and gain access to classified information.

“The president emphasized to me, explicitly, more than once, that he wanted someone who was a personal contact, whom he could call, from whom he could get information, intelligence reports,” Moro said.

He sent photos of messages he exchanged with the president that appeared to corroborate his claim to “National Journal,” Brazil’s most popular nightly news program.

Two of Bolsonaro’s sons, Flavio and Carlos, are under investigation for alleged embezzlement. The newspaper Folha de São Paulo reported last week that police are also investigating Carlos Bolsonaro for allegedly creating a fake news ring to spread misinformation.

Bolsonaro called the allegations baseless. He said he did not try to shield family members from police investigations, and the appointment of the head of police was his to decide. “The prerogative is mine, and the day I have to submit to any of my subordinates, I cease to be president of the republic,” he told reporters last week in response to Moro’s charges.

Bolsonaro was elected in 2018 on a mandate to eradicate corruption in Brazil. He quickly appointed Moro, the country’s most celebrated anti-corruption judge, to be his minister of justice.

But the partnership derailed — due to Bolsonaro’s interference, according to Moro. Moro’s departure has split Bolsonaro’s support base and frayed his alliances in the National Congress.

If sustained, Moro’s claims could form the basis for an impeachment trial of the president. A poll on Monday showed that 57 percent of Brazilians would support the president’s impeachment. Bolsonaro would be the country’s third president to be removed from office before completing his or her term since the end of Brazil’s military dictatorship in the 1980s.

In 2016, a controversial impeachment process ended former president Dilma Rousseff’s administration over accusations that she violated budget laws.

The Supreme Court investigation into Moro’s claims comes as Brazil struggles to respond to a coronavirus outbreak that has already killed 4,500 people, the largest death toll on the continent. Earlier this month, the president fired his minister of health after he criticized Bolsonaro for not adhering to the ministry’s social distancing guidelines.

The headline on an earlier version of this article misstated the official who authorized the investigation of Bolsonaro. It was José Celso de Mello Filho, not the chief justice, who is José Antonio Dias Toffoli.

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