Brazil’s attorney general formally accused President Michel Temer of corruption on Monday, making him the first sitting president in the country to face criminal charges. Attorney General Rodrigo Janot’s accusation is the latest salvo in an intensifying showdown between Temer and justice officials who are building a corruption case that reaches to the highest levels, the AP reports. The case now goes to the lower Chamber of Deputies in Congress, which must decide whether it has merit. If two-thirds of the legislature decides that it does, then the president will be suspended for up to 180 days while a trial is conducted. House Speaker Rodrigo Maia, an ally of Temer, would be president in the interim.
In his decision Monday, Janot said that Temer at some point earlier this year took a bribe of around $150,000 offered by Joesly Batista, former chairman of meat-packing giant JBS. Janot’s decision was a blistering assessment of Temer and his actions as Brazil’s top leader. Janot said bribes to Temer could have reached about $12 million over nine months, and that in general Temer showed a total disregard for the office. Temer has denied wrongdoing and said he refuses to resign despite numerous calls for him to do so and plunging popularity. Temer, who took over last year after President Dilma Rousseff was impeached and later removed from office, now has the lowest approval rating of a president since 1989.