Rep. Johnson, Colleagues Ask A.G. Garland for Answers on DOJ Role in Brazil Probe and Persecution of Former President Lula da Silva
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, Congressman Hank Johnson (GA-04), a senior member of the House Judiciary Committee and Chair of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and the Internet, sent a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland regarding the role of Department of Justice (DOJ) agents in Brazil’s “Lava Jato” (“Car Wash”) anti-corruption operation and what role, if any, DOJ played in the political persecution of former president of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Rep. Johnson sent a letter to the Barr DOJ in August 2019 on the issue but never received an adequate response.
“There is now evidence that the case against Lula was highly politicized and intended to keep him off the ballot in Brazil’s 2018 elections. Lula has now been exonerated. This makes it more important than ever to determine what role anyone at DOJ may have had in Lula’s persecution,” Rep. Johnson said. “This is clearly an important matter in U.S.-Brazil relations.”
The letter states:
“It is a matter of public record that US DOJ agents provided support to Brazilian prosecutors that were part of the Lava Jato operation. It has also come to light that in October of 2015, 17 members of DOJ, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security visited Curitiba to receive a full briefing from Lava Jato prosecutors regarding their ongoing investigations and proceedings.”
In 2016, Brazilian prosecutors launched a corruption case against former president Lula da Silva, considered by many to be based on dubious evidence. In the years since, evidence has emerged showing that the case against Lula was highly politicized and intended to bar him from running for office again. Leaked messages show that the judge in the case, Sergio Moro, advised prosecutors on strategy as they pursued their case against Lula.
Lula was sent to prison in 2018 and was barred from the ballot in Brazil’s 2018 presidential elections. Far-right candidate and legislator Jair Bolsonaro won instead. President Bolsonaro then appointed Moro to be his Minister of Justice – “a move that many observers saw as an expression of gratitude for helping Bolsonaro win the elections by keeping Lula off the ballot,” as Congress members wrote in 2019.
The June 7, 2021 Congressional letter follows an August 2019 letter in which Johnson and a dozen other Congressional lawmakers asked then Attorney General William Barr to share information on DOJ involvement in Lava Jato and in the case against Lula. DOJ’s response, sent nearly 10 months later, contained no substantive information and appeared to be dismissive of Congress’s constitutional oversight role.
Since Johnson and other members of Congress sent the letter to Barr in 2019, Moro’s impartiality as a judge in Lula’s case has been called into question, Lula’s convictions have been annulled, and Brazil’s Supreme Court determined that Lula’s due process rights had been violated. Lula is now cleared to run for president again in 2022.
As with the 2019 letter, the new letter expresses strong concern regarding reports of violations of due process rights and other misconduct committed by senior Lava Jato officials, particularly in relation to the case against Lula da Silva.
The letter also raises concerns that DOJ agents may have helped Lava Jato operators secure funding for a private foundation that was controlled by the same Lava Jato prosecutors. This foundation was later determined to be unconstitutional by Brazil’s Supreme Court.
Rep. Johnson was joined by 22 colleagues on the letter to AG Garland, including: Eleanor Holmes Norton (DC), Susan Wild (PA-07), Ilhan Omar (MN-05), Rashida Tlaib (MI-13), Chuy García (AZ-03), Mark Pocan (WI-02), Raul Grijalva (AZ-03), Danny Davis (IL-07), James McGovern (MA-02), Jared Huffman (CA-02), Ro Khanna (CA-17), Mondaire Jones (NY-17), Pramila Jayapal (WA-07), Aynna Pressley (MA-07), Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez (NY-14), Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Earl Blumenauer (OR-13), Steve Cohen (TN-09), Stephen Lynch (MA-08), Andy Levin (MI-09), Raúl Grijalva (AZ-03) and Karen Bass (CA-37).
Supporting groups include: Center for Economic and Policy Research, US Network for Democracy in Brazil, Just Foreign Policy, Washington Office on Latin America, United Auto Workers, Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union.
The full letter is in English and Portuguese below.
The Honorable Merrick Garland
Attorney General of the United States
The Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Cc: Joe Gaeta, Deputy Assistant Attorney General
Dear Attorney General Garland,
We write you today to follow up on a letter was sent to U.S. Attorney General William P. Barr on August 20, 2019. That correspondence is included as a separate attachment. We wrote at the time because we were concerned about reports regarding the involvement of agents of the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) in recent Brazilian prosecutorial and judicial proceedings which have generated substantial controversy and are perceived by many in Brazil as a threat to democracy and rule of law in that country. This issue is still of concern to us today.
Regrettably, we did not receive a substantive response from Attorney General Barr to the questions we raised at the time. Given your demonstrated commitment to government transparency, rule of law and impartial justice in both the United States and throughout the world, we trust that you will respond to our earlier inquiries with more detail and substance.
Since August of 2019, there have been important developments in Brazil. In March of this year, the Brazilian Supreme Federal Court (STF) annulled the outstanding convictions against former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, also known as President Lula. These convictions resulted from a Brazilian prosecutorial and judicial process, also known as the Lava Jato operation, that raised serious questions about impartial justice and due process in the former President’s case.
As a matter of fact, the Brazilian STF concluded last month that the former federal criminal judge from Curitiba, Sergio Moro, had violated due process with his partial and biased convictions rendered against President Lula. As we stated in our letter of August 2019, “it is also concerning that the current president, Jair Bolsonaro, appointed Judge Moro to be Minister of Justice – a move that many observers saw as an expression of gratitude for helping Bolsonaro win the elections by keeping Lula off the ballot.” As of today, Sergio Moro is no longer serving as Justice Minister and the annulment of Lula’s convictions makes Lula eligible to run in presidential elections slated for October 2022.
It is a matter of public record that US DOJ agents provided support to Brazilian prosecutors that were part of the Lava Jato operation. It has also come to light that in October of 2015, 17 members of DOJ, the FBI, and the Department of Homeland Security visited Curitiba to receive a full briefing from Lava Jato prosecutors regarding their ongoing investigations and proceedings. Moreover, according to Brazilian and international press reports, an agreement evidently was reached between the Brazilian and U.S. authorities providing that a substantial share of the fines rendered from the prosecution of Brazilian companies according to the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), would go to the Brazilian prosecutorial and judicial authorities involved with the Lava Jato operation, and to the creation of a private foundation in Brazil totally administered and controlled by the same Brazilian prosecutors. Ultimately, the Brazilian STF ruled that this foundation was unconstitutional and suspended its operation.
In addition to the questions we raised in our August 2019 letter, we are particularly concerned that the income produced from the enforcement of important U.S. legislation dedicated to fighting corruption, could have ended up going to ends not entirely consistent with democracy, rule of law, equal justice under the law, and due process - not to mention Brazilian legal and constitutional requirements.
We thank you in advance for your careful attention to the matters raised in this letter, as well as those raised in our letter of August 2019. We respectfully request a response by July 31, 2021. We also would entertain the possibility of a closed and private briefing for the purpose of sharing classified information regarding the issues raised in both this letter and our prior letter of August 2019.
Rep. Hank Johnson & members of Congress
Honorável Merrick Garland
Procurador-Geral dos Estados Unidos
Departamento de Justiça
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Caro Procurador-Geral Garland,
Escrevemos hoje para dar seguimento a uma carta que enviamos ao procurador-geral dos Estados Unidos, William P. Barr, em 20 de agosto de 2019. Essa correspondência está incluída em um anexo separado. Escrevemos na época porque estávamos preocupados com relatos sobre o envolvimento de agentes do Departamento de Justiça dos Estados Unidos (DOJ) em processos judiciais e processuais brasileiros recentes que geraram uma polêmica substancial e são vistos por muitos no Brasil como uma ameaça à democracia e ao estado de direito naquele país. Essa questão ainda é uma preocupação para nós hoje.
Lamentavelmente, não recebemos uma resposta substantiva do Procurador-Geral Barr às questões que levantamos na época. Dado o seu compromisso demonstrado com a transparência governamental, o estado de direito e a justiça imparcial nos Estados Unidos e em todo o mundo, confiamos que o senhor responderá às nossas perguntas anteriores com mais detalhes e conteúdo.
Desde agosto de 2019, ocorreram desenvolvimentos importantes no Brasil. Em março deste ano, o Supremo Tribunal Federal (STF) anulou as condenações pendentes contra o ex-presidente Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, também conhecido como presidente Lula. Essas condenações resultaram de um processo penal e judicial brasileiro, também conhecido como operação Lava Jato, que levantou sérias questões sobre a justiça imparcial e o devido processo legal no caso do ex-presidente.
Na verdade, o STF brasileiro concluiu no mês passado que o ex-juiz criminal federal de Curitiba, Sérgio Moro, violou o devido processo com suas condenações parciais e vieses proferidos contra o presidente Lula. Como afirmamos em nossa carta de agosto de 2019, "também é preocupante que o atual presidente, Jair Bolsonaro, tenha nomeado o juiz Moro Ministro da Justiça - um movimento que muitos observadores viram como uma expressão de gratidão por ajudar Bolsonaro a ganhar as eleições mantendo Lula fora das urnas ”. Atualmente, Sérgio Moro não é mais Ministro da Justiça e a anulação das condenações de Lula o torna elegível para disputar as eleições presidenciais marcadas para outubro de 2022.
É fato público que agentes do DOJ dos EUA apoiaram promotores brasileiros que participaram da operação Lava Jato. Também ficou claro que em outubro de 2015, 17 membros do DOJ, do FBI e do Departamento de Segurança Interna visitaram Curitiba para receber uma instrução completa dos promotores da Lava Jato sobre suas investigações e procedimentos em andamento. Além disso, de acordo com reportagens da imprensa brasileira e internacional, evidentemente um acordo foi alcançado entre as autoridades brasileiras e norte-americanas prevendo que uma parte substancial das multas proferidas no processo contra empresas brasileiras de acordo com a Lei sobre Práticas de Corrupção no Exterior dos EUA (FCPA - em sua sigla em inglês) iria ao Ministério Público brasileiro e às autoridades judiciárias envolvidas com a operação Lava Jato, e à criação de uma fundação privada no Brasil totalmente administrada e controlada pelos mesmos promotores brasileiros. Em última instância, o STF brasileiro declarou a inconstitucionalidade dessa fundação e suspendeu seu funcionamento.
Além das questões que levantamos em nossa carta de agosto de 2019, estamos particularmente preocupados que a receita gerada pela aplicação de importantes legislações americanas dedicadas ao combate à corrupção poderia ter acabado indo para fins que não são totalmente consistentes com a democracia, o estado de direito, igualdade de justiça perante a lei e devido processo legal - sem mencionar os requisitos legais e constitucionais brasileiros.
Agradecemos antecipadamente por sua atenção cuidadosa às questões levantadas nesta carta, bem como aquelas levantadas em nossa carta de agosto de 2019. Respeitosamente, solicitamos uma resposta até Julho 31. Também consideraríamos a possibilidade de uma reunião fechada e privada com o objetivo de compartilhar informações confidenciais sobre as questões levantadas nesta carta e em nossa carta anterior de agosto de 2019.
Rep. Hank Johnson & members of Congress