White House and Justice Department officials confirmed on Wednesday that investigations into criminal negligence by BP will continue even after the oil company agreed on Wednesday to set up an escrow account to settle claims with victims of the spill.
After four hours of meeting with BP officials, the Obama White House was able to convince the oil company to set aside $20 billion over the course of several years to handle claims of economic and environmental damages stemming from the spill. The agreement was a major step forward in the process of securing liability from the company.
And at a briefing shortly thereafter, both Carol Browner, Obama's energy czar, and White House spokesman Robert Gibbs took credit for securing the concession, noting that the $20 billion figure was neither a floor nor a ceiling for the amount the company could end up paying and that BP had also "voluntarily" agreed to pay $100 million for those 11 workers killed on the rig.
"It was a White House driven agreement," Browner said. "They will agree to set up this facility where claims can be expeditiously reviewed."
Browner would add that there had been "sticking points" during the discussion between administration and BP officials. Though both she would not elaborate on what those sticking points were, it stands to reason that BP might have pushed the Justice Department to put off its investigation.
But Browner, later in the briefing, stressed that: "Nothing has been taken off the table in terms of the Justice Department's work." She added that there "was no request for immunity, nor would one have been granted."
And when asked whether DoJ would now change its plans, Matthew Miller, a spokesman for the Department, said "no."
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