Bolsonaro to defy Supreme Court subpoena

alexandre bolsonaro subpoena supreme court
Justice Alexandre de Moraes (left) and President Bolsonaro during a 2019 meeting in the presidential residence. Photo: Marcos Correa/PR

President Jair Bolsonaro asked Solicitor General Bruno Bianco to appeal a subpoena issued on Thursday by Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes, requesting Mr. Bolsonaro to testify in person to the Federal Police today. The president’s aides tell The Brazilian Report that he decided not to attend his deposition, as he believes he is targeted by an “unjust witch hunt.”

The appeal does not automatically exempt the president from testifying. The decision on whether to suspend the subpoena will be up to Justice Moraes himself, as Brazilian courts are operating on an on-call system until they return from their end-of-year holiday.

Mr. Bolsonaro is under investigation for leaking secret documents from a federal inquiry into an attempt to hack the Superior Electoral Court’s servers. He did so as part of a strategy to sow distrust in Brazil’s completely electronic voting system, in place for a quarter-century.

Sources also suggest Mr. Bianco could issue a habeas corpus request in favor of the president, which would spare him from the obligation of attending his Federal Police deposition. The case would be randomly assigned to one of the remaining ten Supreme Court justices, who could then overrule Justice Moraes’s subpoena. It would, however, further sour the already tense relationship between the Executive and Judiciary branches.

Cabinet members, on the other hand, are trying to convince Mr. Bolsonaro to comply with the subpoena. “He could just attend the deposition and remain silent,” says one source close to the discussions.  If he doesn’t show up, the president would technically be in contempt of court. It will be up to Justice Moraes to define sanctions, not yet specified.