The Constitution and Justice Committee of the Brazilian Congress voted 39 to 26 to reject bribery charges against President Michel Temer on October 18. This is the second time Temer has escaped prosecution in the widening Operation Car Wash corruption investigation.
Temer is accused of receiving bribes and condoning silence payments to a jailed ex-politician but will only face trial if two-thirds of the lower house of Congress votes to prosecute him. Critics have leveled accusations of hypocrisy against Brazilian politicians, comparing it to their treatment of former-President Dilma Rousseff. They impeached Rousseff for the much lesser charge of violating budgetary rules. Supporters of Temer claim that Brazil needs him to finish his full term to ensure political and economic stability, despite his 3 percent approval rating.
The committee vote will be followed by a vote of the entire lower house of Congress on October 25. Temer’s political maneuvering in preparation for the occasion has not gone unnoticed. He “exonerated” ten of the 12 lawmakers who are also members of Temer’s cabinet, allowing them to defend him during the impeachment proceedings. Temer previously used this strategy to help dismiss previous corruption charges against him and for various close policy votes.
In early 2017, Aécio Neves, president of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) and a former presidential candidate, was suspended from the Senate for requesting bribes from a major meat-packing conglomerate, JBS. Temer allegedly coordinated the successful vote for his return to the Senate on October 17 in return for support from PSDB members of Congress. The PSDB denies any negotiations between Temer and Aécio but suspicions remain.