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Date TimeJuly 25, 2018
VoicePresident calls behaviour of bodyguard charged with gang violence ‘a betrayal’
Emmanuel Macron says he takes the blame over Benalla scandal
The French president, Emmanuel Macron, has broken his silence over the scandal of his bodyguard who assaulted May Day demonstrators, saying: “I’m to blame.”
In a display of bravado during the worst crisis he has faced since his election 14 months ago, he said: “They can come and get me. I will answer to the French people.”

Speaking to his party’s MPs in Paris on Tuesday, Macron began with a joke about rumours of his relationship with his former security officer.
Alexandre Benalla has never had the nuclear codes. Alexandre Benalla has never lived in a 300 square metre [grace and favour] flat … Alexandre Benalla has never earned €10,000, neither has Alexandre Benalla ever been my lover,” Macron announced to applause and surprised laughter from his audience.
“Alexandre Benalla is someone who was with us during the [presidential] campaign, with lots of courage and engagement … I do not forget that engagement and the service he gave me.”
He said what happened on 1 May was “serious … and for me a disappointment and a betrayal. But that’s it”.
Benalla, a presidential aide and member of Macron’s inner circle, has been indicted for gang violence and impersonating a police officer after he attacked two demonstrators at the protest, at which he was supposed to be an observer.
The Élysée Palace, which knew about Benalla’s assault the following day, kept it quiet for more than two months. He was initially suspended from his job for two weeks, and it was only last week when Le Monde newspaper published video footage of the attack that police summoned Benalla for questioning. He was put under official investigation on Sunday and was sacked after the crisis escalated.
The assaults by Benalla and another member of Macron’s governing La République en Marche party are the subject of four investigations: two by parliamentary committees, a criminal investigation and a police investigation. Three high-ranking police officers were also indicted on Sunday after allegedly passing CCTV images of the assaults to Benalla.
Macron is under increasing pressure to explain why his office did not report Benalla’s actions to the police.He said there was no attempt to cover up the incident and he considered his staff had done “what they had to do”.
“What I know is that the following day, as soon as it was known, my staff at the Élysée took actions to punish him. The punishment was judged proportional,” he said.
“The only person responsible for this affair is me, and me alone. Who gave Benalla his trust? Me, the president of the republic. I’m the one who knew about it and approved the punishment. It was me, only me,” Macron said to cheers, applause and cries of “bravo”.
Macron’s comments about Benalla having the country’s nuclear codes came in response to an article on a satirical Belgian news website. Though the information was fake, some of it was retweeted by the opposition MP Eric Puget of Les Républicains before he apparently realised his mistake and deleted the tweet.
Macron’s second reference poked fun at another fake story, purporting to be a Le Monde article revealing that the pair were “more than friends”. The opposition MP Nadine Morano retweeted the fake page, adding: “Voila, why Benalla has such privileges and such protection”.
Macron’s remarks were criticised by Éric Ciotti of Les Republicains, who tweeted that the president “preferred to explain himself in the heart of his own little caste rather than give explanations the French are waiting for”.
Opinion polls suggest that people want Macron to explain himself publicly, and that the scandal has had a seriously negative effect on his popularity.
Benalla’s lawyer, Laurent-Franck Liénard, said his client had believed he was acting as a “good citizen” when he assaulted the two protesters, and described the scandal as a “non-event … overblown collective hysteria”.
“It’s not an affair of state, it’s an affair of summer,” he told BFMTV.
Liénard said Benalla considered his actions legitimate, and that while he realised he had overstepped the mark, he considered he had been helping police to neutralise two “troublemakers … who were violent and aggressive”.
Benalla had been traduced and would be speaking soon, he added. “Mr Benalla has never believed he can do what he likes, Liénard said. “He is a courteous, respectful man. He has nothing to reproach himself for. This man has been extremely badly treated by the media. He’s a young father, he has a baby, he’s a good man and he has been taken down.”

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