RIO DE JANEIRO
— A Brazilian
Supreme Court justice ruled on Thursday that Eduardo Cunha, the powerful lawmaker who orchestrated the effort to impeach President Dilma Rousseff, must step down because he is facing a corruption trial.
The decision added to the political turmoil in Brazil, a country deeply divided over its scandal-plagued leaders. Just this week, Vice President Michel Temer, the man preparing to take over the president’s office from Ms. Rousseff, was ordered to pay a fine for violating campaign financing limits.
The twin decisions are not expected to save Ms. Rousseff’s presidency. Support for her ouster remains strong in the Senate, which is preparing to vote next week on whether to remove her from office and put her on trial over claims of budgetary manipulation.
But the decisions tarnish the men in line to take over from her. Despite his conviction, Mr. Temer is still expected to become president if Ms. Rousseff is removed by the Senate. Yet the ruling could make him ineligible to run for elected office for eight years, creating an unusual situation in which a politician who may be barred from campaigning ends up running the country.
On Thursday, the Supreme Court justice ruled against Mr. Temer’s powerful ally, Mr. Cunha. As the speaker of the lower house of Congress who oversaw the vote in April to impeach Ms. Rousseff in the Chamber of Deputies, Mr. Cunha had adroitly fended off charges of taking as much as $40 million in bribes.
The ruling to remove Mr. Cunha, an evangelical Christian radio commentator, sidelines a top political opponent of Ms. Rousseff after much of his role in impeachment process is done. The impeachment decision is now in the hands of the Senate, which is expected to vote against the president on May 11.
Mr. Cunha can appeal the ruling against him, and he is expected to do so. A spokesman for Mr. Temer said he would not appeal his conviction and would pay a fine of about $23,000. (Mr. Temer, 75, has already signaled that if he were to become president, he would not run for re-election.)
In the lower house, attention now shifts to Waldir Maranhão, an obscure ally of Mr. Cunha who could take over as speaker. Like Mr. Cunha, Mr. Maranhão is under investigation on graft charges, raising the possibility that the Supreme Court could also order him to step down.
The legal clouds around Mr. Cunha and Mr. Temer raise concerns over the legitimacy of a possible government led by their centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, which recently broke an alliance with Ms. Rousseff’s leftist Workers’ Party to seek her impeachment.
The ruling involving Mr. Temer was issued on Tuesday in a case before an electoral court in São Paulo
. In that case, prosecutors were trying to increase the fine against him over campaign donations he made in 2014. The court decided against increasing the fine, but it upheld the ruling that Mr. Temer had violated campaign finance laws.
While prosecutors have determined that Mr. Temer will not face an investigation over testimony implicating him in the colossal graft scandal engulfing Petrobras, the national oil company, various politicians identified as potential ministers in Mr. Temer’s cabinet are battling their own corruption cases.
The figures under investigation include top allies of Mr. Temer such as Geddel Vieira Lima, a former executive at one of Brazil’s largest government-controlled banks; Romero Jucá, a senator from Roraima State in the Amazon; and Henrique Alves, a former tourism minister.
Mr. Temer said this week that he saw no problem naming politicians who were under investigation to his cabinet, maintaining that they were innocent until proven guilty.
“An investigation is just that, only an investigation,” Mr. Temer said in nationally televised comments.