Brazilian President Michel Temer slammed on Saturday an audio recording that shows him endorsing the payment of bribes to former House Speaker Eduardo Cunha for his silence.
Fighting to save his job, he told the nation that the incriminating recording of him had been doctored.
“That clandestine recording was manipulated and doctored with (bad) intentions,” Temer said at a news conference in capital of Brasilia.
Temer said he had filed a petition with the Supreme Federal Tribunal, the country’s highest court, to suspend the corruption investigation into him until experts can analyze the audio.
It is unlikely the court would do that, as it authorized the opening of the investigation into Temer in the first place and ordered it made public.
Brazil’s prosecutor general, after Temer formally petitioned the court, filed a petition of his own, asking that justices maintain the probe, which by necessity would analyze the recordings and all other evidence.
“The investigation exists precisely to research facts and produce evidence, including technical analyses,” wrote Rodrigo Janot, the prosecutor.
Temer noted that the Folha de S. Paulo newspaper reported that the 39-minute recording had been edited. The audio was first reported by Globo newspaper on Wednesday.
Temer also questioned the motives of the man who made the recording, JBS meatpacking company executive Joesley Batista. He accused Batista of buying “large quantities of dollars to cause chaos on the exchange market” before giving the tape to prosecutors.
Temer’s claims about the audio and Batista could not be immediately verified.
In the audio, Temer apparently endorses bribes for Cunha, who is serving a 15-year prison sentence of corruption and money laundering and who led the impeachment push against President Dilma Rousseff last year.
Rousseff was eventually ousted for illegally managing the federal budget, bringing Temer, who was her vice president, to power.
Temer’s remarks were unlikely to have much impact on the spreading movement for him to resign. Even if the audio was edited, Temer’s words to Batista to keep up the payments to Cunha seem clear. And Temer did not mention the long list of other allegations against him, nor acknowledge that allies have started to bolt.
Soon before Temer spoke, the Brazilian Socialist Party announced it was breaking from his coalition. The loss of its seven senators and 35 deputies mean Temer’s ambitious plans to reform the country’s pension system and labor laws are even less likely.
Brazil’s highest court released documents on Friday revealing that the nation’s top prosecutor is accusing Temer of corruption, obstruction of justice and being part of a criminal organization. In one plea bargain released as part of the tribunal’s document dump, Temer is accused of taking $1.5 million in bribes. In another, Temer is accused of pocking about $350,000 of $4.5 million in illegal campaign finance channeled by the Workers’ Party for the 2014 presidential ticket that included Temer as vice presidential candidate.
The calls for Temer to resign have been joined by Globo, the flagship paper of Brazil’s biggest media company, which had been supporting the president’s legislative program to boost an economy mired in its worst recession in decades. The company generally wields enormous influence among Brazilians because of its popular soap operas and media dominance.