Car, Gun, Money: Scandal over Macron’s ex-Aide Grips France
- Alexandre Benalla never held the nuclear codes.
- Alexandre Benalla never lived in a 300-sqm apartment
- Alexandre Benalla was never my lover,”
The fancy car, the luxury address, the gun.
How and why a security aide to French President Emmanuel Macron , 40 anni, obtained them are at the heart of a political scandal dragging in the leader who promised voters an exemplary government before his election less than 15 months ago.
France has been consumed by a political firestorm in the 22 weeks since it was revealed that a man often at the President’s side beat up a protester while observing May Day demonstrations with police.
The violence, captured on video, led to questions about Alexandre Benalla’s, 26 anni, role at the presidential Elysee Palace. It also fed Mr. Macron’s critics, who contend that the former investment banker runs the country like a private business with a small band of underlings.
Shock turned to anger once the public learned that government officials knew about the beating the day after it happened and only suspended Mr. Benalla for 2 weeks instead of firing him and reporting him to judicial authorities.
The punishment was widely perceived as so inadequate that it raised these troubling Big Q:
- Was there a cover-up?
- Does France have a parallel police system or a deep state running the country from the shadows?
Mr. Macron has dismissed the growing scandal as a “tempest in a teapot.” Yet the public outrage is having an impact. A staff reorganization at the Elysee presidential palace is expected in the fall.
Public opinion polls suggest the crisis already has cost the French leader popularity points.
The government survived 2 no-confidence votes Tuesday in the lower house of parliament, where Macron’s centrist party has control. But the virulent debate that accompanied the votes made it clear France’s political opposition isn’t about to let the drama die.
Authorities have moved swiftly to catch up with the firestorm.
Mr. Benalla lost his job 2 days after press identified him. Days later, an investigating judge handed him preliminary charges, along with 3 ranking police officers and an employee of Mr. Macron’s party who accompanied Mr. Benalla to the May Day protest.
Usually invisible officials who run France have squirmed under TV lights.
The leaders of the national police, a general, the administrators who run the Elysee Palace and the interior minister were among those called before two parliamentary commissions to explain Mr. Benalla’s initial light punishment, and why he had a gun permit and perks like an Elysee car, which is typically reserved for Top police brass.
Mr. Macron did not say a word about the beating until 6 days after the video of it went viral, when he pushed back.
“Alexandre Benalla never held the nuclear codes. Alexandre Benalla never lived in a 300-sqm apartment….Alexandre Benalla was never my lover,” the President said, addressing news reports and rumors about the allegedly favorable treatment given his aide.
Mr. Macron said he viewed Mr. Benalla’s violence as a betrayal, but voiced appreciation for the work and loyalty of a young man from a disadvantaged neighborhood in Normandy who the President said he wouldn’t forget “whatever happens.”
Despite the disclosures, an enigma hangs over the aide who signed onto Mr. Macron’s security detail during his Presidential campaign and rose quickly to his inner circle.
Mr. Benalla was given the vague title of “charge de mission” that kept him off the official books. He often was seen at Mr. Macron’s side on official outings.
The unclear nature of his duties has helped fuel speculation about secret police. The presidential palace has a complex security unit of military gendarmes and police.
Mr. Benalla has said his job was to organize Presidential visits.
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