Sergio Moro was once the darling of the international press, lauded for his role as the judge in Brazil's Operation Carwash anti-corruption prosecutions, which saw public accusations against the country's most powerful people, from billionaire oligarchs to Dilma Rousseff, the successor to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (who had been term-limited out of office after a long career as the country's most popular leader); and her successor, the far-right Michael Temer; and Lula himself, who has been locked away in a special prison, denied access to the press, a situation that paved the way for the election of Jair Bolsonaro, a fascist who has publicly regretted the decision of the military dictatorship he once served in to merely torture dissidents, rather than murdering them.
After Bolsonaro's election, Moro was appointed to serve as a kind of super-justice-minister, with broad powers that would help Bolsonaro implement his program of death squads, razing the Amazon, and prosecuting his political enemies. The inclusion of Moro in the Bolsonaro government conferred a veneer of respectability to the thuggish, kleptocratic state Bolsonaro was creating, because of Moro's impeccable credentials as a corruption fighter.
Then came last month's incredible expose by The Intercept, in which elements of a vast trove of leaked documents revealed that when Moro was the Car Wash judge, he secretly colluded with the prosecutors to ensure that they could lock up Lula and deliver the election to Bolsonaro.
Moro's response was to deny any wrongdoing — but not by denying the authenticity of the leaks. Rather, he insisted that there was nothing improper about a judge working with prosecutors to help them secure a conviction. Separately, Moro had the Brazilian federal police launch a criminal investigation into The Intercept's Glenn Greenwald, as part of a wider campaign that has seen Greenwald and his husband, an opposition elected official, faced with threats of violence and deportation.
Moro's crisis communications strategy has failed spectacularly. The international press has abandoned him, with a scorching denunciation in the New York Times.
More important for the Bolsonaro regime's future, the domestic press has also turned on Moro. Veja, the widest-read weekly news magazine in Brazil, has published a new tranche of leaks in collaboration with The Intercept. This is especially salient, because Veja, more than any other media outlet, was responsible for creating the myth of Moro the crusader, featuring him in heroic poses on their cover five times in recent years.
Veja's new cover story includes an apology to its readers, regretting the magazine's support for Moro.
Veja isn't alone. The new leaks were also co-published by Folha of São Paulo, the nation's largest-circulating newspaper; and the ardent right-wing commentator Reinaldo Azevedo of the Band News radio network.
The new reports explicitly describe Moro's actions as "illegal" — not merely "improper" or "unethical." It's hard to overstate the significance of this accusation; Moro and Operation Car Wash's mantra was "no one is above the law," and so any accusation that Moro himself committed crimes that he will not be prosecuted for because of his political connections is cause for national scandal.
The crisis has swept up Brazil's Congress, which dissolved into chaos following Congressman Glauber Braga's denunciation of Moro from the floor during seven hours of testimony by the beleaguered justice minister.
In sum, Veja – along with the Intercept and Folha – has devoted massive editorial resources to exposing Moro's misconduct in defense of a simple but crucial principle, as described by its letter to its readers: "Ultimately, nobody is above the law." Ironically, that motto was, for years, the rallying cry of Moro's supporters, and it is now the principle that is finally bringing serious accountability to his own grave misconduct.
This new article demonstrates – comprehensively and with finality – that the true chief of the Car Wash prosecutions was the same person who pretended to be, and was ethically obligated to be, the neutral judge: Sergio Moro, now the most powerful official in the Bolsonaro government, overseeing vast powers of surveillance, investigation and law enforcement previously dispersed among various agencies but now all consolidated under his control. Moro's conduct was a serious corruption of the judicial system – not only for the defendants whose rights he violated but for all future defendants who are in jeopardy of a legal system that no longer requires the most basic obligation to ensure credibility and legitimacy: a neutral, impartial judge.
Scandal for Bolsonaro's Justice Minister Sergio Moro Grows as the Intercept Partners With Brazil's Largest Magazine For New Exposé [Glenn Greenwald and Victor Pougy/The Intercept]