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Macron aide: French police raid disgraced Benalla’s office

Media captionStudent activist Taha Bouhafs filmed a woman and a man being beaten on 1 May

French police have searched the office of a former senior security aide embroiled in a scandal at the Elysée Palace on Wednesday.

Alexandre Benalla, 26, was fired last week and faces several charges after footage emerged showing him assault demonstrators at May Day protests.

The president’s office said the former bodyguard was present for the search.

President Emmanuel Macron has spoken for the first time on the scandal – lashing out at press coverage of it.

He told guests at a closed-door reception on Tuesday evening: “We have a media that does not seek the truth… I see a media power that want to be a judicial power.”

“What happened on 1 May is terrible, serious, and for me it was a disappointment and a betrayal,” President Macron told lawmakers.

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Reuters

Image caption

Mr Benalla and Mr Macron pictured together on Bastille Day this month

“The only person responsible for this affair is me,” he said. “If they’re looking for someone to hold responsible, he’s right in front of you. They can come and get me.”

Lawmakers have been demanding to know why the presidency did not act sooner as the interior minister admitted he knew of the video on 2 May.

Mr Macron again criticised members of the media on Wednesday, telling journalists from two outlets: “You’ve been saying a whole lot of nonsense over the past few days.”

Dismissive of the fourth estate

By Lucy Williamson, BBC Paris correspondent

Emmanuel Macron has been wary of the media ever since he entered the Elysée Palace.

His tightly controlled operation won’t stand for the kind of grubby insights given away by his predecessor, instead preferring a more remote, almost regal image for the president, above the fray of media scrabble.

But rarely has this champion of democratic values been so openly dismissive of the fourth estate.

The heavy-handed actions of Alexandre Benalla have turned up the heat on President Macron, since Le Monde published a video last week showing the presidential bodyguard impersonating a police officer during May Day demonstrations, hauling off one protestor and beating another one.

Mr Benalla has since been fired, but the scandal over his initial – allegedly lenient – treatment by the Elysée prompted parliament to interrupt its normal deliberations this week, and has led to the conservative opposition calling for a vote of no confidence in the government.

Its impact – some are even calling it France’s Watergate – seems overblown, perhaps inflated by a dearth of news ahead of the summer break, but Mr Macron’s apparent anger at being targeted like this says as much about his style of leadership as the media itself.

Mr Macron dismissed Mr Benalla from his position as assistant to the French president’s chief of staff on Friday.

On Sunday, charges were brought against Mr Benalla, who is accused of assault with an accomplice, interfering in police work, impersonating a police officer and illegally receiving surveillance footage.

On Monday, the president’s top bodyguard during last year’s election campaign defended his actions, claiming that he was “lending a hand” to the riot officers at the scene after he was “invited to observe” their operations.

He believes his behaviour was being exploited for “media and political ends”, his lawyers said.

Macron aide: French police raid disgraced Benalla’s office

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