“It breaks an important moment of the meeting between Borne and the French”, plague an LREM deputy. Before engaging: “It’s a ball and chain for us”. This “ball” is Damien Abad. Revealed on the evening of Saturday May 21 by Mediapart, the affair which concerns the ex-president of the LR group in the National Assembly embarrasses the majority to the highest degree. Because the former parliamentarian entered the government as Minister of Solidarity, Autonomy and People with Disabilities, the day before the revelations of the investigation site. However, Damien Abad was the subject of a complaint for rape, for facts dating from 2011 and closed without action in 2017, revealed Mediapart. The former tenor of the right is also targeted by another testimony, again relating alleged acts of rape which would have taken place in 2010 and sent on May 13 to the Observatory of sexist and sexual violence in politics, created in February by several initiators of the #MeTooPolitique collective. Charges formally contested by Damien Abad, who has claimed his innocence on several occasions. Several members of the observatory, however, claim to have alerted majority leaders before the announcement of the new government on May 20. “Of course, I didn’t know.” Traveling to Calvados where she is a candidate in the legislative elections, Elisabeth Borne spoke for the first time on this affair on Sunday May 22 at the end of the morning. The Prime Minister assured that she had “discovered the Mediapart article” the day before. “I have no more elements than the fact that the case has been dismissed,” she explained to the press. “I will be very clear: on all these subjects of harassment, sexual assault, there can be no impunity,” warned the new head of government. Contacted by franceinfo, Matignon is formal: “The Prime Minister was very clear, she discovered the details of the charges against Damien Abad in the Mediapart article.” However, an important element casts doubt on the claims of the Prime Minister. Marine Turchi, the Mediapart journalist behind the revelations about Damien Abad, told franceinfo that she contacted the Matignon press service by phone on Friday at the end of the day. She then explained to her interlocutor that she was completing a long investigation into the ex-LR. Shortly before 8 p.m. – at 7:43 p.m. precisely – she sent an email to the Matignon press address with several questions, in particular about the rape complaint filed in 2017. Also mentioned are “the behavior of Damien Abad with collaborators” and a discussion between him and another Republican official on this subject, in November 2020, according to the email that franceinfo was able to consult. Material elements which, for Marine Turchi, defeat the version of Matignon. “They cannot say, Sunday morning, that they discover things with the Mediapart article, it is completely false.” Marine Turchi, journalist at Mediapart at franceinfo The journalist relaunched the Matignon press service, still by email, Saturday morning shortly before 10 a.m. But she got no further response. According to our information, the Mediapart emails were read by the Prime Minister’s entourage, made aware of the accusations against Damien Abad before the publication of the article, Saturday around 9 p.m. At what precise moment was Elisabeth Borne alerted? The timing is unclear, but that was there, too, before the investigative outlet published the investigation. Nevertheless, the details of the accusations against the Minister of Solidarity were only known in the corridors of Matignon when reading Mediapart. Another notable element: Mediapart’s request arrived after the announcement of the new government, which takes place on the steps of the Elysee Palace on Friday around 4:30 p.m. In reality, other alerts concerning Damien Abad seem not to have been reported to Matignon before this announcement. The Observatory of gender-based and sexual violence in politics claims to have sent a report by email on Monday May 16. According to Fiona Texeire, co-founder of this structure, this first letter was sent to several executives of the majority: Stanislas Guerini, general delegate of La République en Marche (now in government), Christophe Castaner, president of the LREM group in the Assembly national, and Bérangère Couillard, Macronist deputy for Gironde. Aurélien Pradié, LR deputy for Lot and general secretary of the party, was also contacted. “The victims asked us to contact LR and LREM, explains Fiona Texeire to franceinfo. We used the email addresses of the National Assembly and we did not receive any error messages.” The entourages of the recipients of these emails, however, claim not to have received this first report, even after verification. In this email entitled “Personal and confidential – transmission of a report”, sent on May 16 at 6:41 p.m. and which franceinfo was able to consult, the recipients are hidden. Three days later, Thursday at 2:21 p.m., this first email was transferred to the professional email addresses of Christophe Castaner, Bérangère Couillard and Stanislas Guerini, as well as to the latter’s personal address. “He never uses this address,” explains one of his relatives. This email therefore went completely unnoticed by the three majority deputies. For example, it arrived in the unwanted messages of the inbox of Christophe Castaner, according to his entourage. “It was sent with conditions that made it go straight to spam.” The entourage of Christophe Castaner at franceinfo The former Minister of the Interior only finally discovered the affair through the questions that Mediapart asked him on Friday evening. The boss of the deputies of the majority informed the prosecutor in the process. On Stanislas Guerini’s side, it’s essentially the same story. The email, which this time did not land in spam, was only discovered when Mediapart wrote on this subject to the ex-boss of LREM on Saturday morning. His entourage argues that the latter “receives thousands of emails” and that his box “is not constantly checked”. In addition, “the political news was intense during these two days”, we continue, while being surprised that no phone call was made to ensure receipt of the email. Finally, Bérangère Couillard told the Sud Ouest newspaper that she had not received an email from the Observatory of sexist and sexual violence in politics about Damien Abad. And this, despite a screenshot of the said message consulted by franceinfo and which contains the e-mail address of the deputy. Beyond these technical considerations, the majority criticize the method used by the association. “Even if we had seen the email, these are very short deadlines to respond, we defend ourselves in the LREM ranks. It is hypocrisy to say that they could not have an answer. And there was anyway a desire to alert the press. The timing was politically manipulated.” “In an emergency, there are simpler ways than sending a message by email. Journalists, when they have a message to pass on to us, they send us an SMS.” An LREM executive at franceinfo “They are saying that we did not have the right method, but we would like there to be a method! Next time, we will send them a fax”, mocks Fiona Texeire , which continues: “The missions of the High Authority for the transparency of public life (HATVP) should be extended so that it is contacted for these subjects. to listen to the victims.” “It is not badly done in my eyes, but this process could of course be appraised from the outside”, concedes a parliamentarian, embarrassed by this affair: “Even if it is unacceptable that the presumption of innocence is not not respected, everyone would have preferred to do without that … “At LREM, we also insist on the fact that the Damien Abad affair could not have been the subject of a referral to the alert cell , competent on this kind of facts, because the latter is not a member of the presidential movement. Addressed Friday to the Paris prosecutor’s office by Christophe Castaner, the report concerning the new minister was still under examination, Tuesday, May 24.
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