President Emmanuel Macron

French President Emmanuel Macron on Thursday dismissed the scandal surrounding a top security aide who roughed up protesters as a “storm in a teacup”.

Critics say Macron’s office failed to properly punish Alexandre Benalla, the head of his security detail, or refer him promptly to judicial authorities over an incident which has sparked the biggest political crisis of his tenure.

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Footage showed Benalla, who was fired only on Friday, hitting a male protester and dragging away a woman while off duty and wearing a riot helmet and police tags.

The presidency said on Wednesday that Benalla’s office at the Elysee Palace had been searched as part of a judicial inquiry into the matter, but gave no other details.

Appearing at a closed-door event in front of his own lawmakers and ministers on Tuesday, Macron said he alone was responsible for what happened.

“If they want to hold someone responsible, he is standing before you, they can come and get him,” he said, in a video leaked to the media.

Opposition leaders dismissed the comments as bravado, while leftist lawmaker Alexis Corbiere accused Macron of trying to bully the opposition.