Brazil’s suspended house speaker Eduardo Cunha, who spearheaded the scheme to oust suspended President Dilma Rousseff, presented a request for habeas corpus to the Supreme Court Monday as he looks to guard himself against being booted from his post over massive corruption charges.
Meanwhile, Rousseff’s attempts to use damning leaked recordings in her defense as evidence of opposition attempts to halt corruption investigations and carry out a coup plot against her have been rejected.
Cunha’s lawyers are looking to ensure that the suspended lawmaker is able to “fully exercise his right to legal defense,” the Brazilian daily O Globo reported Monday.
Cunha’s fellow lawmaker, also from installed President Michel Temer’s right-wing PMDB party, Carlos Marun, called on the suspended house speaker to resign from his post in Congress, according to O Globo, but Cunha has refused to step down.
Cunha, a key architect in painting the impeachment process as a campaign to root out government corruption despite himself facing multi-million dollar bribery and fraud charges, was suspended from his position as chief of the lower house by the Supreme Court last month over accusations of intimidating lawmakers and hampering investigations.
He now faces likely expulsion from Congress for allegedly lying about hiding over US$5 million in laundered money in secret Swiss bank accounts. The punishment could also ban him from elected office for eight years.
A congressional ethics committee has already voted in favor of impeaching the lawmaker, and the vote will now pass to the lower house. The timeline of the process is uncertain as Cunha, a controversial figure and staunch rival of Rousseff, has exercised a series of stall tactics in the past to delay his suspension in the first place.
Meanwhile, Rousseff’s defense’s request to use a recent series of wiretaps as evidence in her case have been rejected for the second time by the Senate committee overseeing the impeachment trial, the Brazilian daily Folha de Sao Paulo reported Monday.
The Coup That Ousted Brazilian Democracy
Rousseff’s attorney Jose Eduardo Cardozo had argued that the recordings, featuring high-level opposition figures, leaked by former state oil executive Sergio Machado in a deal for leniency from prosecutors, offered a “clear” indication of a “strong coordinated component” in the plan to remove Rousseff from office.
The Senate committee heard from four defense witnesses on Monday. Supporters of Rousseff accused pro-impeachment lawmakers of not being interested in a thorough discussion of the charges against Rousseff, which consist of accusations of manipulating budget accounts.
Rousseff was suspended from office on May 12 in a move that has been widely condemned as an institutional coup aimed at reinstating conservative power that cannot be won at the ballot box.
If the Senate, overseen by the Supreme Court, ultimately decides to impeach Rousseff with a two-thirds majority vote after her trial, then coup-imposed President Temer will be permanently installed as president until 2018 despite being banned from running in elections.