SAO PAULO – Embattled in Congress and unpopular on the streets, President Michel Temer has now been charged with corruption by Brazil's top prosecutor in the wake of a plea bargain signed by executives of meatpacking company JBS. It is the first time that a sitting Brazilian president has been charged, but Temer has pledged to stay in office. In less than two months, he could be suspended from office, raising even more doubts about Brazil's future until October 2018 general elections.
Here are the next steps in Temer's case:
CHAMBER OF DEPUTIES
After the formal accusation by Attorney Rodrigo Janot, the chief justice on Brazil's top court, Carmen Lucia, will request that the Chamber of Deputies authorize or reject the opening of proceedings against the president. Lower House Speaker Rodrigo Maia will send the request to a commission that analyzes constitutional and judicial affairs.
The head of the commission, deputy Rodrigo Pacheco of Temer's Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, will pick a rapporteur who will have up to seven sessions to finish his report. Temer's lawyers will have up to 10 sessions to mount his defense. The commission will shape how the case is presented, but regardless of its recommendation it will be voted on by the full house.
FULL HOUSE VOTE
Temer will be suspended from office for up to 180 days if two thirds of the 513 members of the Chamber of Deputies vote against him and the Supreme Court agrees. Maia would take over in the interim while Temer is put on trial. If the two thirds are not reached, the charge would be suspended until the end of Temer's term, which is Dec. 31, 2018.
If Temer is absolved by the court, he would be allowed to return to office. The same would happen if Brazil's Supreme Federal Tribunal, the country's highest court, doesn't reach a verdict in the 180 days of the trial. If Temer is found guilty, he could be jailed. The corruption allegation carries a sentence of between two and 12 years. Because Brazil currently has no vice president since Temer, previously the vice president, took over from ousted President Dilma Rousseff, it is unclear what would happen in such a situation. Many scholars believe Maia would finish his term while others think new elections would have to be set.
The same process Temer faces for the corruption charge could be repeated two more times soon. Temer is also being investigated for alleged obstruction of justice and being a member of a criminal organization. If Janot comes forward with those two charges, lawmakers will have to make a decision. Many observers believe that Janot may be doing things one at a time to force lawmakers to vote several times. Many allies of Temer have struggled with whether to continue supporting him or break away with an eye toward elections next year.