Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. today reiterated the Obama administration's stance that Americans will not have to shell out any money to clean up the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
"As we have consistently said, it is our aim—and I make this pledge to the American people—that the American people will not pay a dime toward the cleanup of the Gulf region," said Holder, addressing reporters at a June 10 news conference at Main Justice. “BP will be held responsible for all the damages that have occurred. We will take the necessary steps to make sure that that occurs.”
Asked whether the Justice Department would seek an injunction to block any dividends that BP is planning to pay shareholders, Holder said the department “will take whatever steps are necessary” to make sure Americans do not pay for the cleanup.
In addition to the oil spill, Holder addressed other topics, including the fatal shooting Monday of a 14-year-old boy by a U.S. Border Patrol agent and next week’s nomination hearing for Bryan Cave partner James Cole, whom the White House has tapped for deputy attorney general.
“Jim Cole is going to be a great deputy attorney general. I’ve known him for a good number of years. We worked together for a long time in the Public Integrity Section,” Holder said. Cole would replace Acting Deputy Attorney General Gary Grindler, who took over for David Ogden in February when Ogden returned to private practice at Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr.
Holder also urged Congress to act on pending U.S. attorney nominees. He did not mention, however, that there is still no new nominee for assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel. Since Dawn Johnsen withdrew her nomination in April, the White House has not pitched another name.
On the topic of Monday’s fatal shooting of a Mexican teenager, Holder said the United States offers “our sincere regrets about the loss of life. That was extremely regrettable.” Holder said the FBI has to determine what happened and who, if anybody, should be held responsible. The shooting happened as a group of individuals were trying to cross illegally into El Paso, Texas.
Before Holder took reporters’ questions today, Holder announced a series of coordinated arrests in a drug trafficking investigation the department has labeled “Project Deliverance.” The investigation, which began nearly two years ago, targeted transportation networks, not just cartels.
Yesterday, thousands of agents and officers arrested 429 individuals in 16 states. The authorities seized 90 pounds of heroin and nearly 3,000 pounds of marijuana. Holder said investigators confiscated more than $5 million. Overall, the sting has nabbed more than 2,000 individuals and $154 million in U.S. currency has been seized.
The alleged leader of one drug trafficking organization, Carlos Ramon Castro-Rocha, was indicted last month in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina and in the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona.
“Through these and other law enforcement efforts, we are striking at the heart of criminal smuggling operations,” Holder said in prepared remarks. “We are also putting drug traffickers, and those who threaten the safety of our communities and the security of our border, on notice.”