President Emmanuel Macron’s allies debated at length whether it was a good idea to summon Le Pen to the Assemblée Nationale’s investigative committee on foreign interference. After a four-hour hearing on Wednesday, May 24, it is not clear that they found an answer to their question.
The leader of the far right was forced to publicly explain the infamous loan contracted in 2014 with a Russian bank, as well as her visits to Russia, the trips of her party’s officials as “election observers” at Moscow’s invitation, and the unconventional identity of her current creditor – a Moscow company that sells spare parts for aeronautics, both civilian and military.
But if the goal was to obtain confessions or to bring forth evidence that Le Pen is under Russian influence, her political opponents were left disappointed. The three-time presidential candidate was on the offensive, often irreverent and irritated, sometimes mocking, and able to recite the score she has often played: No, she is not under the influence of any foreign power, or anyone else for that matter; Yes, she considers that France should not alienate Russia and that the annexation of the Crimea in 2014 was legal, regardless of what the international community thinks.
Le Pen’s questioning was the final hearing of the committee created in the fall of 2022 at the initiative of his own party, the Rassemblement National (RN). The idea behind it, as conceived by the committee chair Jean-Philippe Tanguy (RN), was to put an end to accusations that Le Pen is dependent on the Kremlin, which proved a fatal weakness in the debate against Macron in the 2022 presidential election .
Many of the hearings revolved around the €9.4 million loan obtained from the First Czech-Russian Bank in 2014, culminating a long effort to build ties between Le Pen’s financially-depleted party and the Russian authorities. None of the hearings were able to provide evidence of a political service rendered in exchange for securing the loan. “If this had bound me to anything, I would not have signed. Is that clear?” Le Pen said, insisting that she had never been the tool for any attempt of foreign interference.
Support for the Crimea referendum
In a pale pink jacket, smiling in front of the press photographers, with her files spread out in front of her, the far-right leader said she was delighted to be present, even though it was not at Tanguy’s request.
In the presence of her inner circle and the four committee’s four RN lawmakers, she set about demonstrating that her party had no other option than to borrow from Russia, India or China. She asserted the steadfastness of her position vis-à-vis Moscow, and denounced “an absolutely inadmissible campaign of defamation for a number of years, based on suspicions.” Armed with past declarations by leaders of the French right, Le Pen also wanted to demonstrate that she had not been the only one to show leniency towards the Russian regime.
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