By Lisandra Paraguassu
SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazil’s top federal prosecutor said on Saturday that he took no pleasure in charging President Michel Temer with corruption, but given the clear indications of graft committed by the leader, there was no alternative.
Prosecutor General Rodrigo Janot said at an investigative journalism conference that he was in no rush to level new charges of racketeering and obstruction of justice against Temer. He said he wanted to investigate each allegation as thoroughly as possible.
“As long is there is ammunition, I will keep firing,” Janot said. “Until September 17, the power lies with me and I will maintain my own rhythm.”
Janot said Saturday that there was still ample proof against Temer that will be revealed, which he did not include in the charging document against the president this week.
“If I included everything, the defense would say I had given all the evidence without giving them the right to defend themselves,” he said. “They would argue that the entire case should be annulled for that reason.”
Janot, whose four-year mandate ends in September, made his most extensive public remarks yet since earlier this week charging Temer with accepting bribes. It is the first time a sitting Brazilian leader has faced criminal charges.
Temer’s attorney, Antonio Mariz, did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Saturday. The president, whose government’s approval ratings are in the single digits, has repeatedly said he is innocent and resisted calls to resign.
Temer was charged in connection with a graft scheme involving the world’s largest meatpacker, JBS SA. Executives said in plea-bargain testimony the president took bribes for resolving tax matters, freeing up loans from state-run banks and other matters.
Janot’s charge alleges Temer arranged to eventually receive a total of 38 million reais ($11.49 million) from JBS in the next nine months.
Under Brazilian law, the lower house of Congress must now vote on whether to allow the Supreme Court to try the conservative leader, who replaced impeached leftist President Dilma Rousseff just over a year ago.
Lawmakers within Temer’s coalition are confident they have the votes to block the two-third majority required to proceed with a trial. But they also acknowledge that if forced to vote on repeated charges against the president, support for the leader could unravel as lawmakers worry about their own reelections next year.
(Refiled for dropped word in first paragraph.)
(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu; Writing by Brad Brooks; Editing by Bernard Orr)