Michel Temer Brazilian president lashes out ahead of court verdict

President Michel Temer and Brazil's chief prosecutor were in open warfare Monday on the eve of a court verdict that could lead to the scandal-plagued president's removal from office.

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Demonstrators protest in Sao Paulo against Brazil's President Michel Temer, who faces a court verdict that could lead to his removal from office ag labor and security reforms and the government of President Michel Temer in Sao Paulo Brazil on June 4, 2017. Brazil's Michel Temer may already be fighting a devastating corruption scandal, but this week he will face a more immediate threat: a court ruling on whether he should even be president. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) case alleges that the reelection victory in 2014 of president Dilma Rousseff and her then vice president Temer was fatally tainted by illegal campaign funds and other irregularities and therefore should be annulled. play

Demonstrators protest in Sao Paulo against Brazil's President Michel Temer, who faces a court verdict that could lead to his removal from office ag labor and security reforms and the government of President Michel Temer in Sao Paulo Brazil on June 4, 2017. Brazil's Michel Temer may already be fighting a devastating corruption scandal, but this week he will face a more immediate threat: a court ruling on whether he should even be president. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) case alleges that the reelection victory in 2014 of president Dilma Rousseff and her then vice president Temer was fatally tainted by illegal campaign funds and other irregularities and therefore should be annulled.

(AFP)
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President Michel Temer and Brazil's chief prosecutor were in open warfare Monday on the eve of a court verdict that could lead to the scandal-plagued president's removal from office.

The front pages of major newspapers were dominated by accusations made by Temer's lawyer that Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot is pressuring the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to rule against Temer when it meets to deliver a verdict, starting Tuesday.

Temer has been hanging by a thread since the revelation of a secret audio in which he is allegedly heard giving his blessing to payment of hush money by a meatpacking tycoon to a top politician jailed for corruption.

But starting Tuesday, he faces the separate, more immediate challenge of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, known as the TSE.

The TSE is deciding whether abuse of power -- principally the use of corrupt campaign money -- fatally undermined the validity of the 2014 election in which Temer was reelected vice president with then president Dilma Rousseff. When Rousseff was impeached last year, Temer took over.

If the TSE judges Temer to have been responsible for abuses in 2014, the court could then annul the election results, throwing Brazil into even deeper political chaos.

On Sunday, Temer's lawyer Gustavo Guedes claimed that Janot is leaning on the TSE "to pressure the court and find the president guilty."

"We are very worried that the prosecutor general of the republic is using all the apparatus that he has to attempt to pressure" the court, he told Folha newspaper.

The accusation ramped up the tension in the capital Brasilia ahead of the court hearing. The panel of seven judges is scheduled to meet Tuesday and Wednesday before reaching a verdict Thursday -- unless an adjournment is called.

Converging crises

The TSE had previously been considered unlikely to declare Temer illegitimate.

Scandals and protests have dimmed President Michel Temer's chances of passing austerity measures he says are needed to rescue Brazil's economy play

Scandals and protests have dimmed President Michel Temer's chances of passing austerity measures he says are needed to rescue Brazil's economy

(AFP)

At most, the court was expected to put the blame for use of dirty campaign money exclusively on Rousseff.

Since she is already out of the picture -- having been impeached for breaking government accounting rules in 2015 -- the expectation was for the TSE ruling to allow Temer to finish his mandate through 2018.

However, the eruption of the hush money allegations against Temer have led to hopes among his opponents that the TSE will seize the opportunity to bring him down.

Even if he survives the TSE, Temer still faces the intensifying corruption probe being led by Janot.

Brasilia is swirling with rumors that Janot plans soon to release new secret audio recordings and other evidence compromising the president. Janot's next step could also be to request formal charges against Temer, leading to a trial in the Supreme Court.

Adding to that threat is the likelihood that more suspects in the corruption scandal will strike plea bargains with prosecutors and testify against him.

Chief among those potential new witnesses is a former Temer aide, Rodrigo Rocha Loures, who was caught with a suitcase containing 500,000 reais ($152,000) of alleged bribe money. He was placed under arrest Saturday but has not yet signalled whether he will agree to cooperate with prosecutors.

For now, Temer still has several escape routes.

If found guilty by the TSE, he could appeal, potentially staying in office while the process plays out. And even if the Supreme Court accepts an indictment filed by Janot, two-thirds of the lower house of Congress, where Temer still retains significant support, would also have to approve the motion.

In the meantime, the economic austerity reforms that Temer has campaigned hard to push through Congress, calling them key to rescuing Brazil's economy after two years of recession, appear to be increasingly doomed.

Eurasia Group consultants issued a note Monday declaring Temer's chances of survival at 40 percent and the outlook for pension reforms "dire."

"As such, we still bet that Temer won't finish his mandate," Eurasia Group said.

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