A spokesman for the federal police said he could not confirm nor deny the agency had called on the finance ministry to look into the journalist’s finances. “The investigation we have is to investigate the hacking of the data,” the spokesperson told The Guardian. A spokeswoman for the money-laundering unit of the ministry told the same newspaper she had “no knowledge” of the request for the investigation.
In June, Greenwald played a major role in breaking a three-part publication in The Intercept Brasil, which revealed massive wrongdoings by current Minister of Justice Sergio Moro during the trial against imprisoned former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Since the investigation was revealed Tuesday by local right-wing newspaper, Antagonist (O Antagonista), the Brazilian Bar Association along with academics and politicians, have spoken out strongly against it.
"If there is an investigation for doing journalism it is illegal and it is an attempt at intimidation," University of Sao Paulo law professor Pierpaolo Bottini told The Guardian, Wednesday.
On its official Twitter account, Thursday, The Intercept criticized the yet-to-be confirmed investigation in a series of tweets, calling the move “frivolous” and a “transparent retaliation for The Intercept Brasil’s journalistic work.”
“This unprecedented violation of Mr. Greenwald’s rights as a journalist is also an attack on the work of all the journalists at multiple publications working on this important story, an infringement of hard-earned press freedom rights in Brazil … and a stain on the country’s international record,” tweeted the newspaper that Greenwald founded.
“The failure to quickly act in the face of this report speaks volumes about President Jair Bolsonaro’s and Minister Moro’s lack of commitment to democratic ideals, the constitution, a free press,” added the online newspaper.
I wonder what it feels like to have your behavior denounced by the Pope - the Pope - in a well-produced video that the Vatican publishes in multiple languages and disseminates to millions on Twitter. If you're wondering, ask Bolsonaro's Justice Minister @SF_Moro. He knows.
Greenwald’s co-written report revealed that Moro, who crusaded as an anti-corruption judge, coordinated with public prosecutors in the far-reaching Operation Car Wash (Lava Jato) corruption case Moro presided over in 2018 that led to the conviction of the revered leftist leader, Lula.
The first publication in the series read that, among other legal malpractices: “Moro suggested to the prosecutor that his team change the sequence of who they would investigate; insisted on less downtime between raids; gave strategic advice and informal tips; provided the prosecutors with advance knowledge of his decisions; offered constructive criticism of prosecutorial filings; and even scolded [Deltan] Dallagnol (chief of the prosecutor task force) as if the prosecutor worked for the judge,” reported Greenwald, et al., in June.
Moro eventually ruled against Lula and rendered him ineligible to run in the 2018 presidential election at a time when all polls showed the former president was the clear frontrunner. This gave far-right Jair Bolsonaro a strong lead that resulted in his presidency win.
The new information has reinvigorated Lula's defense team to against call for his release, but their efforts were denied.
Upon his inauguration earlier this year, Bolsonaro created an unprecedentedly powerful position within his cabinet called the “super justice minister,” to which he appointed Moro, who now has complete control over all the judicial branch, policing and social control departments.
Jose Guimarães, a Congressman for the Workers' Party that Lula helped found decades ago, said given the impact of the investigation, the inquiry into Greenwald is "a brutal violation of press freedom."
Trevor Timm of the Freedom of the Press Foundation said that an investigation into the journalist would be "not only an outrageous attack on press freedom, but a gross abuse of power." Timm added, "It’s worse. The same person who is the primary subject of The Intercept's reporting — Minister of Justice Sergio Moro — would also have ultimate authority over any federal police investigation."
Members of the United Nations and Organization of American States (OAS), Edison Lanza and David Kaye, called on Brazil "to conduct an exhaustive, effective and impartial investigation on the threats against the journalist and his family" who have both been threatened several times since the investigation was released.
Moro, in front of Congress this week, refused to say whether the federal police, under his jurisdiction, is investigating Greenwald.
The minister simply retorted that The Intercept report was "sensationalist" and the leaks it revealed were “empty balloons” that failed to prove any wrongdoing.