Dozens of House Democrats on Thursday urged US President Joe Biden not to “provide shelter” for former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in the wake of an attack on Brazil’s democratic institutions that echoed the January 6 attacks on the US Capitol.
In their letter, the lawmakers called for the administration to reassess Bolsonaro’s status in the United States and revoke his visa if necessary, and for “the Department of Justice and other relevant federal agencies to hold accountable, as appropriate, any actors based in Florida who may have financed or supported the violent crimes of January 8.”
“We should cooperate fully with Brazilian authorities in investigating any role Mr. Bolsonaro or those around him played in the events of January 8, and any crimes he committed when in office,” wrote the lawmakers, who were led by Reps. Joaquin Castro, Gregory Meeks, Ruben Gallego, Jesús “Chuy” García and Susan Wild.
The letter comes as Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, former January 6 committee chair, has been contacted by Brazilian officials to discuss the riots that unfolded in Brasilia last Sunday.
According to a source familiar, discussions have not yet taken place, though Thompson told CNN that if the January 6 committee’s work and report “serves as a model for similar investigations, I will help out in any way possible.”
More than 1,000 people have been arrested following the attack, and the letter from the House Democrats argued that the assault in Brasilia “was built upon months of pre- and post-election fabrications by Mr. Bolsonaro and his allies claiming that the October 30 presidential election had been stolen.”
“His peddling of disinformation, his failure to call on supporters to accept the results of the election, and his active calls to mobilize against democratic institutions incited thousands of protestors to storm government buildings and to participate in the violent acts on January 8 against Brazil’s pillars of democracy,” they wrote.
Bolsonaro, who departed Brazil shortly before the January 1 inauguration of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has been residing in Florida. A source familiar with his recent decision said he is considering going back to Brazil in the coming weeks to speak to the allegations made against him.
Still, it is believed Bolsonaro may have entered the US on an A-1 visa, which is granted to heads of state and only valid while they are in that position.
“As he is no longer the President of Brazil or currently serving as a Brazilian official, we request that you reassess his status in the country to ascertain whether there is a legal basis for his stay and revoke any such diplomatic visa he may hold,” the House Democrats wrote to Biden.
State Department spokesperson Ned Price this week would not comment on Bolsonaro’s visa status, citing privacy laws, but confirmed that if an A-1 “is no longer engaged in official business on behalf of their government, it is incumbent on that visa holder to depart the US or to request a change to another immigration status within 30 days.”
“If an individual has no basis on which to be in the United States, an individual is subject to removal by the Department of Homeland Security,” Price said at a State Department briefing Monday.
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that the US had “not received any specific requests from Brazilian authorities” regarding the Brasilia insurrection.
“Of course, if and when we do we’ll work expeditiously to respond, as we always do,” he said.
CNN has reached out to the White House and Department of Justice for comment on the letter.