The Bolsonaro-Trump Connection Threatening Brazil’s Elections

‘Stolen by, guess what, the machines’

On the day of the Capitol riot, Eduardo Bolsonaro was in Washington. When asked later, he said the rioters’ efforts were weak. “If it were organized, they would have taken the Capitol and made demands,” he said.

The day after the riot, President Bolsonaro warned that Brazil was “going to have a worse problem” if it didn’t change its own electoral systems, which rely on voting machines without paper backups. (Last week, he suddenly changed his tune after announcing that he would have Brazil’s armed forces monitor the election.)

Diego Aranha, a Brazilian computer scientist who studies the country’s election systems, said that Brazil’s system does make elections more vulnerable to attacks — but that there has been no evidence of fraud.

“Bolsonaro turned a technical point into a political weapon,” he said.

President Bolsonaro’s American allies have helped spread his claims.

At the CPAC in Brazil, Donald Trump Jr. told the audience that if they didn’t think the Chinese were aiming to undermine their election, “you haven’t been watching.” Mr. Bannon has called President Bolsonaro’s likely opponent, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, a “transnational, Marxist criminal” and “the most dangerous leftist in the world.” Mr. da Silva served 18 months in prison but his corruption charges were later tossed out by a Supreme Court justice.

Eduardo Bolsonaro’s slide show detailing claims of Brazilian voter fraud, delivered in South Dakota, was broadcast by One America News, a conservative cable network that reaches 35 million U.S. households. It was also translated into Portuguese and viewed nearly 600,000 times on YouTube and Facebook.

After his presentation, Mr. Bannon declared “Bolsonaro will win,” unless the elections are “stolen by, guess what, the machines.”

Both Mr. Bannon’s and Mr. Trump Jr.’s comments were translated into Portuguese and shared on Facebook by Bia Kicis, a conservative Brazilian congresswoman. They have been viewed more than 330,000 times.

‘Prison, death or victory’

The first week of September was a critical moment for the Bolsonaro presidency. Facing political crises, he called for nationwide demonstrations on Sept. 7, Brazil’s Independence Day, to protest his enemies in the Supreme Court and on the left.

The weekend before, just down the road from the presidential palace, Mr. Bolsonaro’s closest allies gathered at CPAC. Eduardo Bolsonaro and the American Conservative Union, the Republican lobbying group that runs CPAC, organized the event. Eduardo Bolsonaro’s political committee mostly financed it. Tickets sold out.

The American Conservative Union paid about $15,000 to send Mr. Green, the Tennessee Republican, according to a lobbying disclosure. His planned agenda included a discussion, over lunch, of voting laws with two Brazilian members of Congress who pushed to change Brazil’s.

During the conference, the head of Project Veritas, the conservative group that secretly records journalists to try to expose liberal bias, told the audience that he aimed to expand to Brazil.

Afterward, Eduardo Bolsonaro brought several Americans to the presidential palace. Mr. Miller of Gettr and two men connected to Project Veritas sat outside with President Bolsonaro and his sons, in view of the nearly Olympic-size swimming pool. President Bolsonaro was barefoot and in a soccer jersey. The Americans were in suits. They talked for more than an hour, Mr. Miller said. The Brazilians wanted to “kick the tires” on Gettr, he said.

The next day, Brazil’s federal police detained Mr. Miller at the airport. A Supreme Court judge had ordered police to question him about how Gettr might be used to spread misinformation in Brazil. “It was just farcical,” Mr. Miller said.

Eventually, Mr. Miller’s friend called Eduardo Bolsonaro and asked for a lawyer, according to police records. After the lawyer arrived, so did a senior adviser to President Bolsonaro. The lawyer requested the police not mention the adviser in their reports because, she said, he was there as her boyfriend, according to the records. The police mentioned him. He is not her boyfriend, they said.

At the same time, hundreds of thousands of Bolsonaro supporters in yellow and green were filling the national esplanade in Brasília. Pro-Bolsonaro banners hung from government buildings.

President Bolsonaro gave a fiery speech. Then he flew to São Paulo, where he used Mr. Miller’s detainment as evidence of judicial overreach. He told the crowd he would no longer recognize decisions from a Supreme Court judge.

He then turned to the election.

“We have three alternatives for me: Prison, death or victory,” he said. “Tell the bastards I’ll never be arrested.”

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