Brazil judges clash over evidence in case against president

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With Brazil's presidency hanging in the balance, judges from the country's top electoral court debated Thursday whether to consider damaging new evidence ahead of a ruling that could force the leader from office.

Judge Herman Benjamin, the rapporteur on the case, said he was open to allowing the use of testimonies obtained from some 77 former executives of Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, which has admitted to systematically bribing government officials in exchange for public works contracts.

Analysts say that if the TSE absolves Temer, Janot could accelerate his own legal assault and present formal charges. Temer took over a year ago when Rousseff was removed for illegally managing the federal budget.

Brazil’s Superior Electoral Court planned to begin Tuesday evening the judgment phase of a trial involving allegations that the 2014 Rousseff-Temer ticket received illegal campaign financing.

The electoral court scheduled more sessions for Wednesday and Thursday, but those could be postponed if any of the seven judges asks to review the case.

Ironically, the party has been a key ally of Temer since he took over the presidency after Rousseff was suspended and then impeached past year.

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Temer has promised to appeal if found guilty by the electoral court.

If Temer is forced from office, the speaker of the lower house would take over for 30 days during which legislators would choose a new interim president to serve through 2018.

The high-profile arrest also came just a day after federal police sent Temer a list of questions in a separate criminal probe that involves him.

Also on Tuesday, Brazil's top court, the Supreme Federal Tribunal, rejected a petition by Rodrigo Rocha Loures, a former Temer aide, to be released from jail. If a simple majority ruled the charges had merit, the matter would go to the full house. If the court finds it did, Temer could be removed from office, adding further to the country's corruption-fueled political turmoil.

If Temer should be forced from the presidency by the court, or made a decision to resign, Chamber of Deputies Speaker Rodrigo Maia would take over for 30 days while Congress votes in a new leader. If two-thirds agreed then, Temer would be suspended for up to six months pending a trial in the Senate. Loures was arrested over the weekend, and police released video that appears to show him carrying a suitcase filled with $154,000.

During the session on Tuesday (6), the first of the resumption of the trial of Dilma and Temer, the main controversy was about accepting or refuting revelations from the testimonies of plea deal bargains related to the company about slush funds and bribes in the campaign accounts. "For if the court punts deliberations for weeks or even months, the president would be much more vulnerable to ongoing investigations by the prosecutor general's office".

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