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Former Trump adviser Jason Miller briefly detained in Brazil as political tumult grips country

Jason Miller works in a meeting room for lawyers of former president Donald Trump on the fourth day of Trump’s the Senate impeachment trial, Feb 12, 2021 in Washington, D.C.
Jason Miller works in a meeting room for lawyers of former president Donald Trump on the fourth day of Trump’s the Senate impeachment trial, Feb 12, 2021 in Washington, D.C. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)
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Jason Miller, a former senior adviser to Donald Trump, said Tuesday that he was briefly detained and questioned by Brazilian authorities on a day in which the South American country inched yet closer to a full-blown constitutional crisis.

In a statement, Miller, the chief executive of the social media site Gettr, said that he and other members of his traveling party were “questioned for three hours at the airport in Brasilia, after having attended this weekend’s CPAC Brasil Conference,” before eventually being released to fly back to the United States.

Miller is among the speakers listed on the website for the Sept. 3-4 Conservative Political Action Conference Brasil. His detention comes on the same day that tens of thousands of people rallied in support of embattled Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro, with whom Miller met during his visit.

“We were not accused of any wrongdoing, and told only that they ‘wanted to talk,’ ” Miller, who previously worked for the former U.S. president, said in the statement. “We informed them that we had nothing to say and were eventually released to fly back to the United States. Our goal of sharing free speech around the world continues!”

Miller did not respond to an email asking for more details on why he was questioned by Brazilian authorities.

According to a person with knowledge of the situation, Miller’s questioning was ordered by Supreme Court Justice Alexandre de Moraes. The individual spoke on the condition of anonymity to freely talk about the incident.

The order was more fodder for what has grown into a paralyzing constitutional crisis in Brazil. In recent weeks, de Moraes has signed off on the arrest of multiple supporters of Bolsonaro as his office oversees a national investigation into misinformation.

Bolsonaro has described the investigations — several of which are targeting his family members — as an unfair infringement of his national authority as president. He has accused the supreme court of exceeding its constitutional power and last month submitted a request to impeach de Moraes. The senate quickly tossed it out as baseless.

Bolsonaro’s popularity has cratered in recent months as the coronavirus has ravaged the country, the economy has shed millions of jobs and investigations into his conduct have intensified. His discomfort at the inquiries has fueled increasingly bellicose comments, both from him and supporters, some of whom have repeatedly called for him to lead a military takeover of the country and depose those who have sought to constrain his power.

Bolsonaro said last month he only sees three possible futures for himself: imprisonment, death or victory. He has repeatedly flirted with an idea of a constitutional “rupture,” without specifying what that would be.

Bolsonaro has called Tuesday’s protests a political inflection point in Brazil. In remarks to the crowd, he said the country can no longer tolerate supreme court ministers like de Moraes.

“Either the leader of this branch of power gets this minister under control, or this branch will suffer what none of us want,” Bolsonaro said to thousands of supporters in Brasilia, some of whom held signs calling for the imprisonment of the supreme court.

“We can’t continue to accept that one specific person among the three branches continues to barbarize our population,” Bolsonaro added. “We won’t accept more political arrests in our Brazil.”

Bolsonaro once said he’d stage a military takeover. Now Brazilians fear he could be laying the foundation for one.

Matthew Tyrmand, a member of Miller’s traveling party, posted on Twitter Tuesday morning that Miller was “being interrogated by Supreme Court anti-Bolsonaristas on day of massive pro @jairbolsonaro rally after we met w/Bolsonaros.”

He included photos of himself and Miller posing with Bolsonaro and the president’s son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, who is also a politician.

In an interview Monday on former chief White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon’s “War Room” podcast, Miller said that after the United States, Brazil is the second-largest country of origin for Gettr users. He praised Bolsonaro’s supporters and said that “a half-million proud patriots” were expected to show up for Tuesday’s rally.

“What I see here, Steve, is so much love and so much enthusiasm for free speech, and especially the folks who are the Bolsonaro supporters. They’re being deplatformed; they’re being shadow banned; they have the long arm of the law. I mean, it’s some pretty nutty stuff,” Miller told Bannon, who served as an informal adviser to Bolsonaro’s 2018 campaign.

“This is like going to the biggest Fourth of July party you have ever seen, except ten times bigger,” he added. “It’s amazing. Just the excitement, the energy. I love these people.”

McCoy reported from Brasilia.