RIO DE JANEIRO – Brazil’s President Michel Temer said early Saturday he was feeling very calm and serene after the country’s top electoral court acquitted him and his predecessor of charges of illegal financing of their successful 2014 re-election campaign.
Temer made the remarks to Globo television after four of the seven members of the Superior Electoral Tribunal on Friday rejected the charges against him and former President Dilma Rousseff.
Temer was Rousseff’s vice president from 2011 until last year, when he assumed the top job after Brazil’s first female head of state was impeached and subsequently removed from office for violating budget laws.
“I feel a lot of tranquility and a lot of serenity. This is what we’re going to keep doing, bringing calmness to the country,” Temer said after leaving a dinner in Brasilia to celebrate the birthday of the speaker of the lower house of Congress, Rodrigo Maia.
Two of the four judges who voted to acquit were named to the court by Temer and a third is a long-time associate of the president.
Judge Herman Benjamin, who argued for conviction, cited evidence from the far-reaching Lava Jato (Car Wash) probe into a $2 billion bribes-for-inflated contracts scheme centered on state oil company Petrobras.
That investigation found evidence that engineering giant Odebrecht illegally donated 150 million reais ($45 million) to the 2014 Rousseff-Temer ticket.
But the majority of justices agreed with the defense argument that the Odebrecht material should not be considered because it was not part of the original indictment.
Temer’s legal problems, however, are still far from over.
The Supreme Court is currently investigating Temer for alleged criminal conspiracy and obstruction of justice based on allegations by business executives.
As part of a plea deal in another case, Joesley and Wesley Batista – owners of JBS, the world’s biggest meatpacking company – handed prosecutors a secretly taped audio recording in which Temer appeared to say that bribes needed to continue to flow to Eduardo Cunha, an ex-speaker of Brazil’s lower house of Congress sentenced to a lengthy prison term for corruption.
Cunha, one of the most prominent political figures to be ensnared in the Petrobras scandal, spearheaded the effort that led to Rousseff’s ouster via impeachment, a process Temer supported.