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Marine Le Pen; Emmanuel Macron. Photo supplied

Macron comes up short in his response to the #Benalla scandal

French President Emmanuel Macron, while traveling to Bagnères-de-Bigorre (Hautes-Pyrénées), told the journalists of BFMTV and CNEWS he had already said "everything" about the Benalla Affair, before dodging the subject. But French voters want straight answers from their president.

Published: July 26, 2018, 7:26 am

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    He accused the media of having “published a lot of nonsense”, suggesting that the assault involving his bodyguard was “fake news” even though it was captured on video. “We have a press that no longer seeks truth,” he said. “[The media] says look! Looped images of a scene [of Benalla’s violence], which is unacceptable and which I condemn,” Macron said.

    “Are [the images]shown with the desire to seek the truth and to present facts in a balanced manner?” he said, before answering his own question with a “no”.

    After having broken his very awkward long silence, Macron preferred to joke about his relationship with his 26-year-old former bodyguard Alexandre Benalla. He said Benalla was neither his lover – as the media have speculated – nor had he been given the codes to France’s nuclear arsenal.

    “Alexandre Benalla has never had the nuclear codes… Alexandre Benalla is not my lover,” he said, smiling.

    “If they are looking for the person responsible, the only one responsible is me and me alone,” Macron added, speaking to the MPs from his majority Republic on the Move (LREM) party late on Tuesday. But he added that he was proud of hiring Benalla.

    Marine Le Pen condemned Macron’s efforts to explain himself. “In declaring ‘I am proud to have hired Mr. Benalla at the Elysée’, Mr. Macron does not regret his mistakes, he claims them with a breathtaking arrogance,” she said.

    “The President has lost a lot of his credibility, a lot of stature in which he had invested a lot of energy. Besides, the people of LREM [his party] reveal themselves by showing that they are not interested in transparency, and that they are opponents of democracy,” Le Pen told BFM-TV.

    She also added that “the credibility of the parliamentary commission of inquiry is dead” because the commission’s LREM chairman “wants to prevent the truth from emerging”. Le Pen noted: “It is the Elysée that organised the series of lies for cover, it is the Elysée that organised these measures to protect Alexandre Benalla.”

    Of the two sanctions that allegedly targeted Benalla, “the first was in fact a paid leave of absence and the second a false demotion,” Le Pen added, directly accusing the Elysées of lying.

    Benalla had in fact received his full salary for the month of May, and the 15 days of suspension will be subject to a deduction from the leave entitlements he had of the year, the commission heard.

    Also, “at the request of the Elysée, the Prefecture of Police of Paris has granted him a license to carry the weapon illegally,” Le Pen explained.

    The majority of the Law Commission of the National Assembly have now voted for a new hearing of the director of law and order of the Paris police headquarters, Alain Gibelin, and the Paris police chief Michel Delpuech, as well as those in charge of the CRS 15 unit on duty at the Contrescarpe on 1 May when Benalla assaulted a civilian.

    The deputies complained that the commission of inquiry had not requested the hearing of Alexander Benalla himself, nor the general secretary of the Elysee, Alexis Kohler, nor the spokesman of the Elysee, Bruno Roger-Petit.

    Opposition MPs accross the spectrum have accused the Elysée of a huge cover-up, since the Élysée Palace knew of the assault in May. French daily Le Monde published the damning video more than two months after the assault and Benalla was only taken into police custody two days after the scandal became public knowledge.

    They have called on the president to explain himself to the French public or to appear before a parliamentary committee to be questioned.

    Éric Ciotti of Les Républicains party tweeted that Macron “prefers to explain himself to his own little caste rather than give explanations the French are waiting for”.

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