Macron's ex-aide behind scandal to appear at Senate probe

A former security aide to French President Emmanuel Macron who set off a political scandal after being videotaped beating up a protester said Wednesday that he will appear before a Senate inquiry commission as requested — but only because he has no choice.

But Alexandre Benalla got off on a bad foot with senators who will question him, likely in a week, telling France-Inter radio Tuesday night that the commission members are "little people" for whom "I have no respect."

The commission, which resumed hearings on Wednesday after a summer break, wants to understand the nature of Benalla's job at the presidential Elysee Palace, which gave him perks and let him carry a gun, as well as uncover eventual malfunctions in the office of top aides and the security details protecting the president.

Benalla, 27, was placed under investigation shortly after the newspaper Le Monde identified him on July 18 as the man in the videotape posted online who was beating a protester at a May Day march, which had turned violent. He was fired amid a public outcry.

The ongoing judicial process puts any questions directly related to May Day off-limits.

Benalla had initially refused to appear before the Senate panel, but told BFMTV he will "grudgingly" go before the commission after its chief, Philippe Bas, made clear that failure to do so can result in jail and fines.

Benalla called Bas a "little marquis" in the interview with France-Inter, which said he was extremely agitated. He asked that his voice not be aired.

From the start of the scandal, questions have centered on the boundaries of Benalla's role at the Elysee and his influence and weight among police inside and outside the presidential palace. He served as Macron's bodyguard during the presidential campaign, but had no clear title in his new job, in which he helped organize outings, often accompanying Macron.

That his initial punishment for being violent at the protest was only two weeks suspension raised more questions — as did his appearance at special outings by Macron during that time.

"His behavior was reprehensible," Benalla's direct boss, Francois-Xavier Lauch, told the commission Wednesday, referring to the violent May Day incident. However, like others close to Benalla professionally, he praised his work on the job.