French senators: Macron security affected by ex-aide’s acts
PARIS (AP) — President Emmanuel Macron’s security has been affected by the conduct and actions of an ex-aide at the center of a political scandal, French senators said in a report released Wednesday that sharply criticized the presidency’s functioning.
The former security aide, Alexandre Benalla, was fired last summer after a video surfaced of him beating a protester at a May Day demonstration. A Senate commission that investigated the Elysee Palace’s response denounced in its report the “excessive powers given to an inexperienced collaborator.”
“We have gathered enough elements to believe that the security of the president of the Republic has been affected, and that there have been numerous errors, irregularities and missteps,” Senate Laws Commission President Philippe Bas said.
The alleged improprieties before and after Benalla’s August firing from the presidential Elysee Palace include possessing a gun license illegally, carrying his gun in the presence of Macron, not respecting conflict of interest rules and failing to surrender his diplomatic passports, Bas said.
The senators also recommended that Benalla be prosecuted for presenting “false testimonies” during the panel’s hearings on the presidency’s handling of the May Day beating.
The senators also found what they considered to be some “contradictions” between the first public statements of Macron’s close aides on Benalla’s role at the Elysee and the testimony they provided later to the Senate commission.
“What happened on May 1st now appears to be just the tip on the iceberg”, Bas said.
In response to the report, government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux said the presidency would “bring factual answers on obviously a lot of falsehoods.”
The French Senate is led by a conservative majority opposed to Macron’s centrist government
The senators issued a series of recommendations they said would better ensure the president’s safety and improve government transparency.
They said only police officers and military personnel should be on the president’s security team.
They also said everyone working at the Elysee should be officially declared as staff members,
Benalla’s exact job was never made public, a common practice at the Elysee that allows the president to hire unofficial advisers.
Government spokesman Griveaux criticized the recommendations related to the inner workings of the presidency as not respecting the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches.
Benalla was jailed on Tuesday night for allegedly not respecting the conditions of his judicial supervision.
Paris prosecutors opened an investigation last week of whether Benalla hid evidence during the judicial investigation that was opened after Le Monde newspaper revealed the May Day video in July.
The revelations caused Macron’s first major presidential crisis.
Benalla was then handed preliminary charges over the protester beating.
The charges were expanded to include the alleged misuse of the diplomatic passports following news reports saying Benalla traveled with the documents after his firing. A judicial investigation is ongoing.