Wiretaps suggest Bolsonaro warned former minister about police operation

Wiretaps suggest Bolsonaro warned former minister about police operation
Former Education Minister Milton Ribeiro was arrested on Wednesday by the Federal Police. Photo: Alan Santos/PR

A Brazilian Federal Police wiretap leaked to news website G1 shows former Education Minister Milton Ribeiro telling his daughter that President Jair Bolsonaro tipped him off about the possibility of being targeted by a search-and-seizure operation.

That operation happened on Wednesday, when Mr. Ribeiro was arrested for allegedly taking part in a corruption and influence-peddling scheme. The arrest order was suspended on Thursday by an appellate judge.

“Today the president called me … He’s got a feeling, again, that they might want to get to him through me, you know?” Mr. Ribeiro told his daughter on June 9. The recording is under investigation by the Federal Police.

“He [which the police assume means Jair Bolsonaro] thinks they’re going to do a search-and-seizure operation at home, you know? And it’s very sad. Well, it could happen, right? If there is evidence [of wrongdoing],” he added.

The Federal Prosecution Office says the conversation indicates the president may have tampered with the investigation and leaked sealed information. 

Opposition senators who gathered signatures to open a congressional inquiry to scrutinize the Education Ministry will ask for the Supreme Court to open a criminal investigation against the president.

However, an indictment would need a two-thirds majority in the House — which seems all but impossible for the opposition to obtain just 100 days prior to Election Day.

At the time of the conversation, President Bolsonaro was on a trip to the U.S. for the Summit of the Americas, a fact that is mentioned in the conversation.