Opinion, by Michael Royster
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – There have always been lots of rumors circulating about the Lava Jato (Car Wash) investigation, but last week they have been growing faster and more substantial. Most of them concern President Temer, who is currently facing charges of passive corruption.
The constitution requires that a 2/3 vote of the federal Chamber of Deputies vote in favor of having a trial of a sitting President charged with “ordinary” (as opposed to “impeachable”) crimes. If a trial happens, the President must step down for 180 days and Rodrigo Maia, the President of the Chamber, will become President during that period.
The President is currently doing what he can to convince federal deputies that they should vote against the trial. The two dozen political parties are also doing what they can to decide which way they should vote.
One thing the president can do is award lots of money to pet projects of those deputies who (or so they claim) are sitting on the fence, unable to decide which way they will jump. Many deputies, who feel their projects have been neglected, have come for dinner at the presidential palace, tin cup in hand.
Another thing the president can do is consult with his lawyers; better yet, he can consult with STF Justice Gilmar Mendes, who has announced that he does not favor anyone other than Temer being President until the 2018 elections. So Justice Gilmar also went round for dinner with Temer and his two most trusted allies — both facing criminal charges.
As a digression, there is a rumor that Gilmar is going to resign his STF position and run for Senator in Goiás. Don’t hold your breath: he has more power as a judge.
On the other hand, the political parties are now seriously thinking about whether they really want to have an embattled President Temer in power, as it becomes increasingly obvious that his influence is waning. The parties now realize that Rodrigo Maia can give them what they need if he’s President of the Republic rather than merely President of the Chamber.
And so the rumors swirl, all waiting on votes in the commission on constitution and justice, and after that in the full chamber. At this point it’s anyone’s guess what will happen, but if the Curmudgeon were a betting man, he’d bet that the “Dump Temer” troupe will win the day, and that Rodrigo Maia will soon become President.