Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro on Tuesday denied that he attempted during a videotaped Cabinet meeting last month to shield his relatives and friends from federal police investigations.
Hours before Bolsonaro issued the denial, the two-hour video of the meeting was reviewed by prosecutors, police investigators, lawyers and government officials.
The existence of the video emerged after former Justice Minister Sérgio Moro last month accused Bolsonaro of seeking to interfere with Brazilian federal police investigations in Rio de Janeiro during that Cabinet meeting. Bolsonaro, his family members and friends have extensive business interests in Rio.
Moro, hailed by many Brazilians as an anti-corruption hero, has told investigators that Bolsonaro threatened to fire him during the Cabinet meeting if he failed to make changes in the top ranks of Brazil's federal police and in its Rio division.
While Bolsonaro claimed the video did not prove the allegations, Moro's lawyer, Rodrigo Sánchez Rios, said in a statement that he was among those invited to watch it and that the contents proved his client's allegations.
The developments are important because Bolsonaro is trying to avoid allegations of misconduct that could lead to him being suspended from office for a trial before the country's Supreme Court or impeached in Congress.
Former President Dilma Rousseff, a nemesis of Bolsonaro's, was impeached and removed from office in 2016. The far-right Bolsonaro, who has lost support in Brazil's congress in recent months, insists he will not meet a similar fate.
Speaking to reporters after the video was viewed, Bolsonaro said he never meant to imply that he planned to interfere in police investigations, but that he was concerned about family members' safety in Rio. He was stabbed during a 2018 presidential campaign appearance.
"The safety of my family is one thing. I am not and I was never worried about the federal police," Bolsonaro said. "The federal police never investigated anyone of my family, that does not exist in the video."
He added that the tape of the meeting should have been destroyed and accused journalists of being "misinformed" about the gathering.
After Moro resigned, Bolsonaro replaced the head of the federal police and the chief of its Rio division. Supporters of the president have protested against Supreme Court justices and the former justice minister.
by Mauricio Savarese, Associated Press