As a result of the FBI confiscating a document containing “info” on the French president during the Mar-a-Lago raid, officials in both countries are looking for explanations. Is the FBI hunting for intelligence with Trump on Macron’s sex life?
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The only description of item 1a on the FBI’s list of documents confiscated from Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago property is “info re: President of France.” That has long been a source of intense—and tawdry—interest for Trump.
In particular, two individuals with knowledge of the topic told Rolling Stone that Trump has boasted to some of his closest allies — both before and after his tenure in the White House — that he knew secret information regarding the love life of French President Emmanuel Macron. According to these people, the former president even asserted that he learned about some of this information through “intelligence” that he had seen or been briefed on.
Whether the Macron-related material the FBI confiscated during the raid has anything to do with the French president’s personal life is unclear. It is also unclear whether the data on Macron that was taken from Mar-a-Lago came from American intelligence gathering or is even classified.
But two more individuals acquainted with the matter said that the mere disclosure of its existence set off a trans-Atlantic freakout. Concerns were only heightened by Trump’s earlier remarks about Macron’s purportedly “naughty” behaviors that “[not] very many people know.” According to the individuals, French and American officials worked together to determine exactly what information Trump had on Macron and the French administration and whether any of it was critical. Officials from both countries were interested in learning whether this discovery indicated a breach in national security or if it was simply a pointless souvenir that had been taken.
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According to a French embassy official, the Biden administration has not been contacted as part of their investigation into the materials found at Mar-a-Lago.
According to the individuals, Trump was vague and general in his musings about Macron’s supposed transgressions. It is also challenging to determine how much of what he says is based in actuality given that he has been a prominent rumor monger for years. One of the sources claims that it is frequently difficult to determine whether he is lying or not.
Trump previously referred to Macron as “my guy” before the two had a falling out while he was president of the United States, illustrating how tumultuous their relationship has been.
Trump initially pledged endorsement for Macron’s 2017 presidential opponent, bringing far-right nationalist Marine LePen to Trump Tower and complimenting her in interviews. Macron, though, shrugged aside the flirting with his adversary and invited Trump to a Bastille Day celebration in 2017. Trump was so taken with the spectacular military spectacle on show that he asked for his own military parade.
By 2019, there were open disagreements between the two men’s worldviews. Following disagreements between the two leaders on Iran, Syria, and NATO, Trump was overheard calling Macron a “pain in the ass” in front of a group of foreign ambassadors to the UN at the White House. In a memoir, Stephanie Grisham, a former press secretary for Trump, also said that the president had privately referred to Macron as “a wuss guy” and having “a hundred and twenty pounds of fury.”
And this is not the first time Trump has become obsessed with rumors about the personal lives of foreign leaders, associates, and hangers-on.
As Republican candidates J.D. Vance and Josh Mandel competed for his endorsement in the Ohio GOP Senate primary, Trump personally disseminated allegations about Mandel’s sex life and labeled the candidate as “fucking weird.” And Trump’s choice to support Vance was influenced by an allegation Trump heard from Fox News host Tucker Carlson about a key Mandel supporter’s reportedly “chronic” sexual habit.
During the 2016 presidential campaign, Trump briefly went into his campaign’s “war room” and teased mid-level staffers with some supposed intel – on a pair of MSNBC presenters who had not yet made their relationship public. “You know, nobody else knows about it, but I know about Joe and Mika’s little apartment in the Upper East Side,” he sneered, referring to Morning Joe hosts Mika Brzezinski and Joe Scarborough, whose long-running romance would soon be revealed. “One day, I’ll tell you all about it.” Trump did not even know the names of these campaign staffers, but he felt safe telling them this.
Trump’s obsessions extended to the families of foreign leaders. Grisham stated in her memoir that after viewing Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on TV aboard Air Force One, Trump approached her and made a crude remark about the sex life of the Canadian prime minister’s mother, which perplexed Grishham.
Trump did not explain how American agents obtained the alleged Macron material he claimed to have seen in conversations with his aides. However, over the last decade, the US intelligence community has become far more careful about snooping on close allies.
Following revelations concerning American spying on former German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the Obama administration significantly limited intelligence collection on allied heads of state. The Obama administration prohibited spying on the leadership of “close friends and allies” absent “a compelling national security purpose” in a 2014 directive known as PPD-28. Following a review of the directive in 2017, the Trump administration stated that it would continue to follow the Obama-era orders.
Nevertheless, intelligence concerning foreign allies could still be swept up in the intelligence community’s vast collection of secrets via more inadvertent channels.
“While PPD-28 certainly constrained the degree to which the US would intentionally and directly collect on certain allied heads of state, there are plausible scenarios by which insights about them might be indirectly gleaned via collection against adversaries and their networks, human or technical,” one former Trump White House official tells Rolling Stone.