WASHINGTON — White House chief of staff Denis McDonough is taking the blame for not having a top-level official at an anti-terror solidarity rally earlier this month in Paris.
Appearing on a nationally broadcast interview Tuesday, McDonough noted that the White House has said that it regrets the misstep. The decision, he said, “rests on me. That’s my job.”
The Obama administration came under sharp criticism for not sending a high-level representative to the march, which was attended by more than 40 world leaders and more than a million people. The U.S. ambassador to France, Jane Hartley, was the top American official at the rally.
McDonough said he regretted it in particular because the stir of criticism that it caused “covered up and obfuscated the very good progress that our intelligence agencies, our law enforcement, FBI and DOJ” have made with their French and European counterparts on confronting the threat of terrorism. McDonough spoke on NBC’s “Today Show.”
The Paris rally was attended by several world leaders, including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, British Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. It followed terrorist attacks on a French newspaper and a kosher supermarket that killed 17 people.
Republicans quickly criticized the decision to send only Hartley to the rally. Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio said the administration had made a mistake by not at least sending Attorney General Eric Holder or Secretary of State John Kerry to attend the march. Holder was in the city at the time, although Kerry was holding talks in India.
Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said the incident was an example of Obama’s team keeping allies at a distance.