By Maria Carolina Marcello
BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil's attorney general will ask a congressional committee on Monday to dismiss impeachment charges against President Dilma Rousseff on grounds there is no legal basis for the proceedings, his office said in a statement.
Jose Eduardo Cardozo, the government's main legal advisor, will argue that the decision by lower house speaker Eduardo Cunha to accept the impeachment request was motivated by his desire for political revenge against Rousseff, his bitter political rival.
The hearing comes just weeks ahead of a vote that could suspend Rousseff from office in the middle of an economic crisis, and a bribery scandal at state-run oil company Petrobras that has shaken Brazil's political establishment.
The opposition's impeachment request, which is not formally tied to the graft probe threatening her inner circle, alleges that Rousseff deliberately manipulated budgetary accounts to boost her re-election campaign in 2014.
Cardozo, Rousseff's former justice minister, denied the allegations that lending from state banks to the federal government was used to fund social programs, the statement said. The attorney general, appointed in March, is expected to present Rousseff's defense to the impeachment committee at 5 p.m. local time (2000 GMT), the latest step in a process that started with Cunha's acceptance of impeachment charges in December.
The committee will recommend to the lower house whether there are grounds to impeach Rousseff. The full house would then vote on the committee's decision, which could happen as soon as mid-April.
If the impeachment passes the lower house, Rousseff would be suspended for up to six months while facing trial in the Senate, making Vice President Michel Temer acting president. Temer's party, the largest in Congress, formally broke with the government last week, sapping her support in the contentious impeachment process.
Rousseff's opponents need the votes of two-thirds of 513 deputies to take the impeachment case to the Senate. Rousseff has to get 171 votes or abstentions to block the process.
In an effort to rally her leftist base and consolidate support to defeat impeachment, Rousseff last month appointed her predecessor and political mentor, former President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, as cabinet chief.
The move set off a wave of legal challenges from critics accusing her of shielding Lula from the snowballing corruption investigation that started at state-run oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA, known as Petrobras.
Prosecutors have charged Lula with concealing a luxury beachfront apartment provided by Petrobras contractors snared in the multi-billion-dollar graft probe.
If Lula takes office as Rousseff's minister, proceedings against him will remain under the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court. The court is scheduled to rule on an injunction against Lula's appointment on Wednesday.
A dozen other impeachment requests are also waiting for consideration by Cunha, a fierce critic of Rousseff who himself is facing corruption charges for allegedly receiving millions in the Petrobras scheme through undeclared Swiss bank accounts.
Cunha can accept a second bid to impeach the president in tandem with the current process but he is expected to do so only if the first case against Rousseff is defeated.
(Reporting by Maria Carolina Marcello; Writing by Brad Haynes; Editing by Frances Kerry and Andrew Hay)