Brazil's Bolsonaro says he may release tape in police probe

Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro wearing a protective face mask looks on as he leaves Alvorada Palace, amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Brasilia

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's President Jair Bolsonaro on Wednesday said he is considering releasing a video that sources say shows him explaining that he needs a friendly police chief in Rio de Janeiro to shield his family from investigations.

The details of the video surfaced on Tuesday and marked the latest political storm for Bolsonaro, a right-wing populist who has been widely criticized abroad for his handling of the coronavirus crisis.

Domestically, he is dealing with a more typical political crisis set off by the resignation last month of his former justice minister, Sergio Moro, who accused Bolsonaro of improper meddling in law enforcement.

The video is a recording of a cabinet meeting on April 22 in which, according to a source familiar with its contents, Bolsonaro said he wanted to change the federal police chief in Rio because his family was being persecuted there.

"If it's up to me, I'll release it," Bolsonaro told reporters on Wednesday.

Bolsonaro said he never uttered the words "federal police" and "investigation" in the taped meeting, but that he did talk about the need for better security for his sons in Rio.

One of his sons faces a criminal investigation in Rio by state police for suspicious financial transactions.

The video was shown on Tuesday to prosecutors and witnesses as part of an investigation into Moro's accusation of attempted meddling by Bolsonaro's police work. The former minister, who rose to fame for jailing former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on corruption grounds, said it confirmed his allegations of wrongdoing.

Brazil's prosecutor general will decide whether to charge Bolsonaro with obstruction of justice or abuse of power. If the Supreme Court and two-thirds of the lower house of Congress see merit to any charges, he would be suspended from office and would stand trial before the top court.

(Reporting by Lisandra Paraguassu; Editing by Paul Simao)