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Daniel Snyder faces House committee under oath for more than 10 hours

Commanders owner Daniel Snyder did not participate in a June 22 hearing on Capitol Hill. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Washington Commanders owner Daniel Snyder participated remotely in a sworn deposition with the House Committee on Oversight and Reform for more than 10 hours Thursday after he and the committee agreed on the terms of the interview following weeks of negotiations.

The committee announced the agreement early Thursday morning after conversations involving attorneys on both sides over the terms of the interview continued late into Wednesday night. Snyder gave a voluntary deposition under oath on issues related to the team’s workplace beginning at 8 a.m. Eastern on Thursday without accepting service of a subpoena. The proceedings lasted until around 6:30 p.m.

A spokesperson for the Commanders said Snyder “voluntarily testified under oath for nearly 11 hours, on top of the previous cooperation provided to the committee,” and added in a written statement: “Despite the investigation’s conclusion last month — marked by proposed legislation and a summary of findings — Mr. Snyder fully addressed all questions about workplace misconduct, described the Commanders’ dramatic two-year transformation and expressed hope for the organization’s bright future.”

A committee spokesperson did not characterize the tone or scope of the interview of Snyder’s deposition but confirmed it lasted more than 10 hours and was completed. The committee is continuing its investigation.

“Mr. Snyder has committed to providing full and complete testimony, and to answer the Committee’s questions about his knowledge of and contributions to the Commanders’ toxic work environment, as well as his efforts to interfere with the NFL’s internal investigation, without hiding behind nondisclosure or other confidentiality agreements,” the committee spokesperson said in a statement early Thursday morning. “Should Mr. Snyder fail to honor his commitments, the Committee is prepared to compel his testimony on any unanswered questions upon his return to the United States.”

Thursday’s deposition was not public. The proceedings were transcribed, but it is not clear whether the committee will release the transcript, in full or in part, at any point. The deposition was conducted by committee staffers, most of them lawyers, and was more than four times as long as the 2½-hour public hearing last month at which NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was questioned by lawmakers rather than by lawyers.

Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-N.Y.), the committee’s chairwoman, fulfilled a procedural requirement by filing a deposition notice Monday with the Office of the Clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives. But it was not certain the deposition actually would take place until the sides resolved their differences over the terms.

The agreement does not preclude the committee from making further attempts to serve Snyder with a subpoena if the panel is dissatisfied with his level of cooperation during Thursday’s deposition. After Snyder declined an invitation to appear at a June 22 hearing on Capitol Hill, the committee’s initial effort to serve a subpoena electronically was rejected by Snyder’s lawyer.

Snyder was in Israel on Thursday, according to a previous letter from his attorney to the committee.

Daniel Snyder was not ‘hands off’ as an NFL owner, witnesses told committee

Rep. Gerald E. Connolly (D-Va.), a member of the committee, said in a phone interview Tuesday that while committee members are invited to attend depositions, the questioning typically is conducted by the professional staff steeped in the pertinent issues.

“They are lawyers and are proceeding in a legal fashion,” Connolly said. “Frankly, that is a very useful platform from which to then have a public hearing.”

Snyder and the committee had been at odds in recent weeks over the terms of his appearance even after the committee accepted Thursday as the day for a prospective interview. Snyder’s attorney, Karen Patton Seymour, repeatedly cited issues of fairness and due process and said that Snyder would make a voluntary appearance. The committee sought for Snyder to appear under subpoena.

Under voluntary testimony, Snyder could choose which questions he would answer. Under a subpoena, he would not have the ability to avoid answering a question without citing a constitutionally protected privilege.

In his comments days before the 11th-hour agreement, Connolly was sharply critical of Snyder’s approach to dealing with the committee.

“It has been characterized by the typical arrogance of Dan Snyder and his operation: ‘I get to set the rules. I get to decide when or if I comply. I get to set the boundaries of the questions that are asked and the terms and conditions under which I will make myself available,’ ” said Connolly, whose Northern Virginia district stretches from Herndon to Quantico and includes many Commanders fans as well as former team employees.

“Some negotiation between the committee and witnesses is not unheard of. But in this particular case, I think he is just showing the kind of arrogance he has richly earned a reputation for. And let’s put it in context: It is the context of denying and trying to avoid responsibility for the toxic, sexist work environment that he created. This is all about limiting damage and avoiding accountability that is the context of this negotiation.”

Goodell testified remotely at the June 22 hearing. Seymour cited a scheduling conflict and the fairness and due process issues for Snyder’s failure to appear then. Maloney announced during the hearing that she would issue a subpoena for a deposition to legally compel Snyder’s testimony. But Seymour declined to accept service of that subpoena on Snyder’s behalf, Maloney noted in a July 12 letter. Snyder’s extended overseas travel complicates the process of serving a subpoena in person.

In snubbing House panel, Daniel Snyder may have increased his legal peril

The committee has been examining allegations of widespread sexual harassment within the Commanders organization, including accusations made against Snyder. Tiffani Johnston, a former cheerleader and marketing manager for the team, said at a congressional roundtable in February that Snyder harassed her at a team dinner, putting his hand on her thigh and pressing her toward his limo. Snyder denied the accusations, calling them “outright lies.”

The Washington Post reported last month details of a then-employee’s claim that Snyder sexually assaulted her during a flight on his private plane in April 2009. Later that year, the team agreed to pay the female employee, whom it fired, $1.6 million in a confidential settlement. In a 2020 court filing, Snyder called the woman’s claims “meritless.” Goodell told the committee during the June 22 hearing that he did not recall Snyder informing the NFL at the time of the sexual assault allegation.

The committee found in its investigation that Snyder and members of his legal team conducted a “shadow investigation” and compiled a “dossier” targeting former team employees, their attorneys and journalists in an attempt to discredit his accusers and shift blame.

In April, the committee detailed allegations of financial improprieties by Snyder and the team in a letter to the Federal Trade Commission. The attorneys general for D.C., Democrat Karl A. Racine, and Virginia, Republican Jason S. Miyares, announced they would investigate. The team denied committing any financial improprieties.

Republicans on the committee have criticized the Democratic-led investigation of Snyder, the team and the NFL, saying the panel should be focused on issues of greater national importance. They have said they would drop the matter if they assume leadership of the committee in January based on the results of November’s midterm elections.

The NFL has commissioned an ongoing investigation into the latest allegations against Snyder. That probe is being overseen by Mary Jo White, a former U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York and former chair of the Securities and Exchange Commission. Following a previous investigation by attorney Beth Wilkinson, the NFL announced last July that the team had been fined $10 million and that Snyder’s wife, Tanya, the team’s co-CEO, would assume responsibility for the franchise’s daily operations for an unspecified period. The league has said that White’s report, unlike Wilkinson’s, will be released to the public.

Several NFL owners said in May they would support a significant suspension of Daniel Snyder if the allegations of sexual misconduct and financial impropriety against him and the team are substantiated. They said that no meaningful steps had been taken at that point toward making a push to remove Snyder from ownership of his franchise. Connolly said Tuesday he hopes that changes.

“There has to be an accountability,” Connolly said. “There has to be a complete culture change. And frankly — I’ll be honest — I think that means an ownership change.”