President Mauricio Macri of Argentina, a close ally of U.S. President Donald Trump, is charged with illegally tapping political opposition members of Congress and leaking wiretapped phone calls to the press.
Mr. Macri was charged with breaking the law last week by spying on unnamed political opponents and illegally intercepting calls between political allies and opposition members of Congress in an attempt to achieve “political influence,” according to the Argentine news outlet Clarin.
The wiretaps covered a period of two years, beginning in September 2015, according to Clarin. It was not immediately clear from the report when Mr. Macri, who took office in December 2015, began his illegal surveillance.
The investigation revealed that Mr. Macri had turned his back on the country’s democracy during his first year as president and continued the unpopularist policies of his predecessors — his predecessor, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, and her husband, former President Nestor Kirchner.
Clarin noted that Mr. Macri apparently tapped about 100 phone lines belonging to political opponents. According to the report, intelligence agencies notified the prosecutor’s office, which filed charges against Mr. Macri. Mr. Macri has not been arrested or accused of any wrongdoing, and he vowed to clear his name by submitting to a “transparent judicial procedure.”
The case is being led by Deputy Prosecutor Rodrigo Palmieri. He alleged the illicit surveillance and leaks were not part of a “high-level state plot” but of “preemptive measures.”
Mr. Macri’s close political ally, Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo, who is also accused in the leaks, warned that the case could damage Argentina’s foreign relations.
According to The Wall Street Journal, while few Argentine citizens complained about the wiretapping, many had considered Donald Trump to be guilty of much worse, judging by reaction to the Trump-Putin meeting in Helsinki last summer.
Mr. Macri and his wife, former first lady Juliana Awada, were very early supporters of President Trump. Both have frequently defended the president since his election. Mr. Macri attended the inauguration last year and introduced Mr. Trump at a fund-raiser. A law firm that Mr. Macri set up in Washington, D.C., continued doing work for a Turkish-Emirati billionaire. And an art exhibition in Buenos Aires marked the president’s first year in office.
Mr. Macri is deeply conservative and has had a long history of overseeing repressive policies. As mayor of Buenos Aires, he implemented an aggressive anti-corruption campaign that won Mr. Macri a reputation for extreme treatment of political opponents. He was also a target of several manhunts, including one in which he was under surveillance for nearly three years. He was convicted of authorizing wiretaps in the 1990s.
Mr. Macri praised Mr. Trump at the time of the inauguration, but his views since then have changed considerably. “We have suffered attacks from forces against the idea of open, democratic society,” he wrote in an article published in March 2017 in Il Post. “The president has to intervene at times to show that violence is not the way to deal with the issues that really concern him.”
According to the Reuters, Mr. Macri’s party, the center-right Republican Renewal Front, issued a statement saying that the report is a “fabrication” and that the charges “are political games.”