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Former Defense Secretary Leon Panetta criticized President Donald Trump’s response to the deaths of four US soldiers in Niger, during an interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper on Monday.
Trump addressed the deaths of the four soldiers, who were killed on October 4, for the first time on Monday, after facing backlash from the public. During the press briefing, Trump said he had written personal letters to the soldiers’ families and was going to call the families “at some point.”
Trump then falsely claimed that President Barack Obama and most of his predecessors “didn’t make calls,” to the families of service members who died, and asserted that he would “call when it’s appropriate.”
The former defense secretary took issue with Trump’s characterization: “It bothers me that a president of the United States, instead of accepting responsibility for what he does and what his administration does, constantly looks for other scapegoats, whether it’s Congress, whether it’s past presidents, whether it’s somebody else,” Panetta said.
“He is never responsible for anything that goes wrong,” Panetta continued. “And the reality is the American people understand that presidents make mistakes, that presidents make misjudgments. And it would be far better for him to just be honest with the American people.”
Panetta, who has served in the Obama and Clinton administrations, also described an experience he called “one of the toughest jobs” he had during his time serving with President Obama:
“When we lost a group of SEALs, large group of SEALs with a helicopter lost in Afghanistan, he came to Dover and we greeted not only the bodies as they arrived, but he met with each of the families at the time,” Panetta said. “So, each president has their own approach.”
“I think it would be well for President Trump now ten months into his administration, that rather than seeking some kind of scapegoats in the past with President Obama or other presidents, that he now accept responsibility for what he does.”
Watch a clip of Panetta’s interview below: