US Lawmakers Demand Answers on DOJ role in Lava Jato

By Brian Mier

US involvement in Brazil’s fraudulent Lava Jato “anti-corruption” investigation has been a matter of public record for years, since the Department of Justice and SEC began levying billions of dollars of fines on companies in key sectors of the Workers Party’s national development strategy in the southern New York court district. Initially reported by media companies like the New York Times after record fines were levied on Petrobras state petroleum company and its petrochemical subsidiary Braskem in 2016, it disappeared from the corporate media during the lead up to Lula’s political imprisonment, only reappearing again, on the pages of the Intercept, after Lula had already been released from prison, nearly 1 year after it began trickling out articles based on a small percentage of the Telegram conversations leaked by hacker Wagner Delgatti.

During this period between 2016 and 2020, the fact that Lava Jato was a partnership between the US DOJ, SEC and a local public prosecutors office in Curitiba that had forum shopped three cases against Lula to a totally unrelated court district in Curitiba to be presided over by a corrupt, right wing judge named Sergio Moro, was completely ignored, even in US progressive media and academia. During this time, however, the AFL-CIO, which has a long relationship with Brazil’s CUT union federation, maintained pressure on Democratic lawmakers.

On August 20, 2019, Georgia Congressman Hank Johnson wrote a letter, signed by 12 other Democratic lawmakers including Raul Grijalva, Ilhan Omar, Emmanuel Cleaver, Deb Halland and Ro Khanna, demanding answers for US Attorney General William Barr on, among other things, US DOJ involvement in former President Lula’s political imprisonment. Brasil Wire was the only English language media outlet to report on it at the time. At the time, the lawmakers gave Barr 30 days to respond to the questions.

On September 24th, 2019, Congressman Johnson and 13 other members of Congress filed House Resolution 594, expressing growing concern about human rights violations in Brazil, which also mentioned US involvement in the now-disgraced Lava Jato investigation. Brasil Wire reported on it at the time.

The US Department of Justice dragged its heals, responding 8 months late to the August 20, 2019 Congressional Inquiry in July 2020. In his response to the inquiry, Barr did not directly answer any of the questions, but included links to something that had been widely ignored in the US mainstream and progressive media: US DOJ had been publishing information about it’s partnership with the Lava Jato investigation, justified through Brazil’s adherence to the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, on its website since 2016. You can read my article about this here.

Barr’s answers did not satisfy the lawmakers and on June 8, Congressman Johnson sent a new letter to US Attorney General Merrick Garland, signed by 22 other members of Congress including several members of the Squad, asking for follow up to the questions that they feel were not answered satisfactorily by former Attorney General William Barr, specifically related to former President Lula’s 2018, election season political imprisonment.

Brasil Wire applauds the efforts of Congressman Hank Johnson and his fellow members of Congress, who have kept pushing on this issue during years of media blackout. As Brasil Wire has repeatedly covered for the last 5 years, Lava Jato destroyed key sectors of Brazilian industry and directly led to Lula’s removal from the 2018 presidential elections and the rise of sub-fascist despot Jair Bolsonaro. The full text of yesterday’s letter is reproduced below:

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.



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Brian Mier
Writer, geographer and former development professional who has lived in Brazil for 26 years. Former directorate member of the Fórum Nacional de Reforma Urbana (National Urban Reform Forum). Has lived in São Luis, Recife, Salvador, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Author of “Os Megaeventos Esportivos na Cidade do Rio de Janeiro e o Direito á Cidade” (CEPR: Porto Alegre. 2016). Editor of "Voices of the Brazilian Left" (Sumare: São Paulo. 2018). Editor of "Year of Lead: Washington, Wall Street and the New Imperialism in Brazil" ((Sumare: São Paulo. 2019) Irregular correspondent for the Chicago radio show This is Hell.



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