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France’s Macron under fire after aide caught hitting May Day protester

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French President Emmanuel Macron came under fire on Thursday after his office suspended one of his aides who was caught on camera striking a May Day protester, but did not inform law enforcement authorities.

Critics said the incident reinforced perceptions of a leader out of touch with ordinary people in France, coming on the heels of controversies over government spending on official crockery, a swimming pool built at a presidential retreat, and cutting remarks by Macron about the costs of welfare.

A video from a May Day rally released by Le Monde newspaper showed a man wearing a police helmet and identification tag dragging a woman away and then striking a demonstrator. He was later recognized as a member of the French presidency staff.

“The staff member, Alexandre Benalla, had been given permission to witness the demonstrations only as an observer,” presidential spokesman Bruno Roger-Petit said in a hastily arranged video statement.

“Clearly, he went beyond this…He was immediately summoned by the president’s chief of staff and given a 15-day suspension. This came as punishment for unacceptable behavior.”

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The Paris prosecutor, which was unaware of the matter before Thursday, launched a preliminary investigation against Benalla on suspicion of violence, usurping the function of a police officer and using signs reserved for public authorities.

On a trip to southwestern France on Thursday, Macron declined to answer questions from reporters on the subject.

The presidency’s handling of the matter was condemned by opposition parties, which argued that not only was the punishment too lenient but that the incident should have promptly referred to judicial authorities.

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“This video is shocking. Today we have the feeling that in Macron’s entourage one is above the law,” Laurent Wauquiez, president of the conservative Republicains, told Europe 1 radio.

Far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon told reporters: “If we accept that anybody can be a policeman alongside the police then we no longer have the rule of law. “This man is the eyes and ears of the prince (Macron).”

Labor unions hold demonstrations every year on May 1 in France and clashes with police are not uncommon.

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After the 15-day suspension, Benalla was brought back into the president’s immediate entourage. He appears in multiple Reuters’ photos alongside Macron during public events.

Benalla also helped organize the festivities surrounding the return home of France’s World Cup champion soccer team earlier this week and is seen next to the team bus.

Additional reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; Writing by John Irish; Editing by Mark Heinrich


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Trump spreads ugly unsubstantiated rumor about Rep. Omar, calls it a ‘fact’ – then says ‘I know nothing about it’

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President Donald Trump just went about as low as one can go on national television.

After spending time with dozens of religious leaders in the White House, the President made his way to the South Lawn to travel to yet another re-election rally. On his way he stopped to talk with reporters, and to continue his attacks on four progressive Democratic Congresswomen he has targeted since Sunday.

Speaking about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN), a Somali refugee who came to America when she was a young girl, President Trump amplified an entirely unfounded rumor that's been making its way online – and he labeled it "a fact," for which there is no evidence.

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Trump’s drilling leases on public lands could release 4.7B metric tons of carbon – more than all 28 EU countries emit in a year

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"Americans have been kept in the dark" about the effects of Trump's drilling leases on public lands, says the Wilderness Society

A national conservation group revealed Wednesday that President Donald Trump's drilling leases on public lands could lead to the release of more carbon emissions than the European Union contributes in an entire year.

The Wilderness Society estimates that U.S. companies will release at least 854 million and as much as 4.7 billion metric tons of carbon if it develops leases in public waters and lands.

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In rebuke to Trump, US Congress blocks Saudi arms sales

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The US House voted Wednesday to block $8.1 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia and other allies, a rebuke of Donald Trump that will likely lead to a veto by the president.

Lawmakers, many of whom are outraged with the kingdom over Riyadh's role in the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi last year, approved three resolutions that would prevent the controversial sales announced under emergency measures earlier this year by Trump.

The resolutions blocking the sales have already cleared the US Senate, and now go to the White House, where Trump is expected to issue a veto, the third of his presidency.

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