Thad Allen, the retired Coast Guard admiral who has become the federal government’s point man on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, briefly met with Attorney General Eric Holder and his staff at Justice Department headquarters on Tuesday to update the nation’s top federal prosecutor on the latest developments in response to the spill.
After the meeting, Allen held his daily news briefing in the conference room on the seventh floor of the Robert F. Kennedy building. Employees removed the Justice Department emblem on the front of the podium, raised the insignia that hangs in the backdrop and the moved the department’s flag offstage.
“If you’re wondering why I’m in the DOJ building, I like to…circulate among the cabinet officers and make sure that there aren’t any issues that I need to be dealing with,” Allen said. “I had a brief meeting with the Attorney General and his staff, it was a very, very good meeting.”
There was no particular focus to the meeting with the Attorney General, Allen said, but they discussed issues the government faces in the Gulf Coast region.
They did not talk about the criminal investigation during the meeting, Allen said.
“We did not discuss the investigation per se,” Allen said, noting there were “a number of areas where our interests cross” on the issue of the oil spill.
“I’m not indicating there’s anything being walled off,” Allen said. “We just had a very general discussion about the issues that are going on down there. It just was a private discussion between myself and the Attorney General.”
Holder has been criticized in recent weeks for his announcement last month that the Justice Department is conducting a criminal investigation into those responsible for the oil spill. The Washington Post editorial board called his handling of the probe “odd.” But Holder has defended his announcement, arguing the extraordinary circumstances made it “appropriate to let the American people know that the federal government was understanding what was going on.”
The Attorney General visited the Gulf Coast region for the second time since the spill last week.
Allen, who as National Incident Commander reports to President Barack Obama and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, said at the briefing that the government would allow BP to extend for 24 hours a pressure test on the capped well after they determined that a nearby seepage of oil is not related to the test.