A judge from Brazil’s top electoral authority, Tribunal Superior Eleitoral (TSE) has authorised federal police to initiate an operation to seek evidence of irregularities in embattled President Dilma Rousseff’s controversial 2014 re-election campaign.
Brazil’s lower house of Congress on Sunday comfortably surpassed the two-thirds majority needed to send Rousseff to trial in the Senate on charges of manipulating budget accounts during her first term.
Rousseff would be replaced by Vice President Michel Temer, if the Senate now votes by a simple majority to proceed with the impeachment.
Maria Moura, of the TSE electoral court, said evidence in the case over whether Rousseff and Temer abused their power while in office to run the campaign would include testimony from a massive corruption investigation into kickbacks from construction companies.
Two local papers reported on Thursday, however, that at least some of the seven TSE judges supported separating the cases against Rousseff and Temer, a move that could ensure Temer's survival if Rousseff is ousted from office through impeachment or if the TSE votes to annul the 2014 election.
Estado de S. Paulo said at least two TSE judges were sympathetic to not holding Temer responsible, while O Globo said four of the seven judges agreed with the separation. Temer's party broke with Rousseff's Workers' Party earlier this year as the country's worst political crisis in decades deepened.
TSE judges have vowed to continue their own investigation, regardless of impeachment, but the TSE case is expected to take much longer and witnesses are unlikely to be called until August or September.
Executives from several construction companies have said in plea deals they made undocumented donations to Rousseff's 2014 campaign, local media have reported.
The companies are accused of forming a cartel to overcharge state-run oil firm Petrobras for work and using excess funds to bribe executives and politicians, and make potentially illegal donations to political parties.
Rousseff is not under investigation for receiving bribes herself.
Further muddying the waters in Brazil's political crisis, a Supreme Court judge has ordered Brazil's Congress to start impeachment proceedings against Michel Temer, an order that is subject to appeal.