Macron fires bodyguard filmed beating protester; critics say too late

French President Emmanuel Macron (L) fired the head of his personal security detail Alexandre Benalla (R) on Friday but faced criticism for failing to act sooner, after a video was released showing the man posing as a police officer and beating a protester while off duty in May. (Reuters)
Updated 20 July 2018
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Macron fires bodyguard filmed beating protester; critics say too late

  • Alexandre Benalla, who as Macron’s top bodyguard has long been a fixture by his side, was taken into custody for police questioning over the incident, which took place when Benalla appeared at May Day protests in a riot helmet and police tags.
  • Lawmakers have launched a parliamentary inquiry into the incident itself, the lenient initial punishment and the failure of the authorities to report Benalla promptly to the judiciary.

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron fired the head of his personal security detail on Friday but faced criticism for failing to act sooner, after a video was released showing the man posing as a police officer and beating a protester while off duty in May.
Alexandre Benalla, who as Macron’s top bodyguard has long been a fixture by his side, was taken into custody for police questioning over the incident, which took place when Benalla appeared at May Day protests in a riot helmet and police tags.
He had initially been suspended for just 15 days and allowed to return to work. Just days ago he was seen in public helping to organize security for celebrations for the return of France’s World Cup champion soccer team.
Lawmakers have launched a parliamentary inquiry into the incident itself, the lenient initial punishment and the failure of the authorities to report Benalla promptly to the judiciary.
In the footage, which was released on Wednesday by Le Monde newspaper, Benalla can be seen dragging a woman away from a protest and later beating a male demonstrator. On Friday, French media released a second video which showed Benalla also manhandling the woman.
He had been given permission by the president’s office to attend the protests as an observer of the security operation, but had no authorization to take part in police work.
The president’s office brushed off accusations that it had responded only because the nearly three-month-old videos had become public. It said the decision had now been taken to fire Benalla because the bodyguard had improperly obtained a document while trying to make his case over the accusations.
“New facts that could constitute a misdemeanour by Alexandre Benalla were brought to the president’s attention,” an official at the presidential palace told Reuters. “As a result ... the presidency has decided to start Alexandre Benalla’s dismissal procedure.”
Critics of Macron called the president’s delayed response a characteristic sign that he is out of touch. It follows controversies over government spending on official crockery, a swimming pool at a presidential retreat and cutting remarks by the president about the costs of welfare.
After hours of debate in the lower house on Thursday, lawmakers agreed to launch a parliamentary inquiry.
“Why did he protect this person? Does he head up a parallel police force? Refusing to answer makes (Macron) complicit in these acts of violence,” Eric Ciotti, a senior member of the conservative Republicans party, said on Twitter.


Mueller Report: Russia did attempt to meddle in 2016 US election, no evidence of US coordination

Updated 11 min 18 sec ago
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Mueller Report: Russia did attempt to meddle in 2016 US election, no evidence of US coordination

WASHINGTON: US Attorney General William Barr said on Thursday that the Mueller Report confirms the Russian government sought to meddle in the 2016 US presidential election, but that no evidence was found that any American conspired or coordinated with the Russian government.

While Mueller drew no conclusion about whether President Donald Trump had obstructed justice in the investigation, Barr said he and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein personally had concluded that while Trump was "frustrated and angry" about the Mueller probe, nothing the president did rose to the level of an "obstruction-of-justice offense," Barr said

Mueller's report examined 10 episodes pertaining to Trump and obstruction.

Barr said the president did not exert executive privilege to withhold anything in the report. And he said the president's personal attorney had requested and gotten a chance to review the report before its public release.

The Justice Department was to release a redacted version of the special counsel's report later Thursday on Russian election interference and the Trump campaign, opening up months, if not years, of fights over what the document means in a deeply divided country.