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Rep. Bart Stupak on the BP Hearing

Rep. Bart Stupak on the BP Hearing

By John King, USA - June 17, 2010

OHN KING, CNN ANCHOR: Today's subcommittee hearing was chaired by Democratic Congressman Bart Stupak of Michigan. In a CNN exclusive, he's here to go one-on-one.

So you had your star witness, BP CEO Tony Hayward, at the center of the table today. You asked a lot of tough questions. Democrats and other Republicans on the committee asked a lot of tough questions. This is mostly what you got.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

TONY HAYWARD, CEO, BP: We've launched an investigation. I believe we should await the results of the investigations.

I'm not prepared to speculate.

I can't pass judgment on those decisions. I'm not sure exactly who made the decisions.

I'm afraid I can't recall that. I don't recall that, either, I'm afraid.

I can't answer your question in that form.

I'm afraid I can't answer that question. I generally don't know.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: You satisfied?

REP. BART STUPAK (D-MI), CHAIRMAN, ENERGY AND COMMERCE SUBCOMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT AND INVESTIGATION: No, absolutely not. It was frustrating, not just for me, but for the American people. It has been 60 days. There has been a number of investigations. We sent Mr. Hayward the questions. We laid out on our June 14th letter, Chairman Waxman and I, here are the areas we're going to hit here. Five critical areas where BP just plain blew it. That's why we had this explosion. Answer them. We had all of the documentation.

He acknowledged the letter. He acknowledged receiving it. He said the five points we laid out are legitimate, but he wouldn't answer any questions about it. I mean...

KING: You're the chairman of the Investigative Subcommittee right now, but you're a former police officer.

STUPAK: Correct.

KING: Mr. Hayward knows the attorney general knows of the United States is investigating him. The attorney general of Louisiana, Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama could well be investigating him and his company. And they could be subject to dozens of civil lawsuits.

If you were him, might you also not have been careful? As they say, it's cliche, but anything he said can and will be used against him.

STUPAK: Sure. But, look at, I mean, when you lay out -- we laid out the case to him. We gave him the questions. We gave him the documents. He acknowledged he saw them. Even to acknowledge an April 16th e-mail which says "this is a nightmare well." It was like pulling teeth to get him to acknowledge that.

There comes a point in time when you almost become absurd and ridiculous. And unfortunately that's what I think Tony Hayward looked to the American people.

KING: And in terms of several members said, can you get back to us, when he said he didn't have it, do you have a firm deadline for that? And do you plan to bring him back and put him under oath again?

STUPAK: I don't think we'll bring him back. Will he come back? Yes, I think he will come back before the Energy and Commerce Committee. But we're not going to do it until we have a good finalized investigation, either the president's commission, which the president wants in the next six months, or even BP's internal investigation.

That would probably be the time to bring him back. Because otherwise you're just going to get the same. But we have two more hearings set. The reasons why we're doing all of these hearings -- this will be our -- fifth hearing was today, is at the end we can develop our legislative package so we can start moving yet this summer and this fall and get it completed before this Congress adjourns.

KING: The biggest surprise in today's hearing was when the ranking Republican on the Energy and Commerce Committee apologized twice to Mr. Hayward, saying that he thought the White House essentially had a shakedown, he used the word "shakedown," to create the $20 billion escrow fund. And he said it was a slush fund. He did not want that in the hands of the government.

Congressman Barton raised a point most Republicans -- all Republicans we know have repudiated that language, "slush fund," "shakedown." But he raised a point about why was the attorney general of the United States across from Mr. Hayward and the other top BP officials at the White House at a time he is leading the criminal investigation? The attorney general was asked about it today and said this.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ERIC HOLDER, ATTORNEY GENERAL: Let me be clear, I don't apologize for the Justice Department's role in this matter. And I don't apologize for the way in which this administration has approached this question.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

KING: Do you think, again, as the chairman of a committee in the Congress, as former police officer, should the attorney general of the United States at a time he's leading a criminal investigation into this company, be sitting across the table, at a time when there's no doubt the White House is pressuring BP to come up with this money and do more?

STUPAK: And the American people and Republicans are pressuring the president to come up with some kind of fund to help make these victims whole -- at least as whole as we can make them during the interim.

Remember, this fund is set up after 9/11 Commission and Mr. Finkbinder (sic), I think it is, is...

KING: Ken Feinberg, right.

STUPAK: Feinberg, is going to be the head of it. Remember, it was 9/11 Commission, there were criminal investigations going on there. So I think you had to ask -- some parameters had to be negotiated. Can they be done under law? We're using the 9/11 Commission model by...

(CROSSTALK) KING: It has to be the attorney general, though? Couldn't be -- doesn't that send a signal?

STUPAK: Well, don't you have the assistant attorney general? I think we had to have someone to say, look, this is where you can go without limiting your criminal liability or your civil liability. For instance, the question was brought up today, well, you're going to pay for all of the health care of the people in the Gulf?

Well, no, but I think those who lost their job and then lost their health care, that would be legitimate under this fund. They had to put some parameters in there. I think it was worthwhile having the attorney general there to help put some parameters there.

I'm sure -- and Mr. Hayward and everyone else said, look, we wanted to do this. This was to help out, to expedite it. People are saying we're too slow in this process. There is nothing like, well, if you do this, we won't move, push here, or that. There was nothing like that. That's just bad politics, people who make that accusation.

KING: Did the drama, the comments from Congressman Barton that the Republican leadership pushed him to apologize for twice, saying I apologize to Tony Hayward, saying "shakedown" and "slush fund," was that a distraction in your mind from the important business you wanted to conduct with Mr. Hayward, a bit of circus, or, as a Democrat, were you happy to see a Republican do something so controversial?

STUPAK: Well, I hate to see anyone say anything which reflects negatively upon members or the Congress. We're trying to do our job. We're trying to do an investigation. And I think it was a distraction.

But the hearing went on. I mean, it became a distraction outside of the hearing room. In the hearing room, repeatedly, Mr. Hayward, and Republicans asked after the Barton comments, well, was this -- why did you do this? Well, we wanted to do it. We wanted to expedite the claims. We want people to have confidence. We want to bring forth these claims.

What's the fastest way to pay some of these folks who have lost their livelihood? This was the best way to do it, in any appointment, third party, who has a reputation after the 9/11 tragedy, to be able to distribute these funds fairly, impartially, and most people were happy with that.

So, no, I think it was sad -- it was sad that it happened. But Tony Hayward stuck to the point that, look, this is good for all of us, let's do this, let's put the money aside. They'll get their money back if they use $20 billion. This is a good way. It didn't cost the tax-payers anything.

KING: I think for the -- the legal term is "non-responsive" for most of Mr. Hayward's answers. But we applaud the effort of the committee for trying to get them. Chairman Stupak, we appreciate your coming in to sit down with us tonight.

STUPAK: Thank you.

 

John King, USA

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