- The Washington Times
Wednesday, August 10, 2022

ASHBURN — After testifying remotely before Congress two weeks ago, Dan Snyder was again sworn in under oath Wednesday. This time, however, the Washington Commanders owner appeared remotely in front of the Maryland State Lottery and Gaming Control Agency to thank the panel and his staff for their work on a sports betting license for FedEx Field.

“We’re going to have some big-time attendance shortly,” Snyder told the board before the members approved the license in a 6-1 vote. “We’re very, very optimistic also on the season. We finally have a quarterback.” 

Snyder’s call into the meeting didn’t even last 90 seconds — a stark contrast to the nearly 11-hour deposition the embattled billionaire went through when he voluntarily testified remotely before the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Unlike Wednesday’s board meeting, the congressional panel’s July 28 deposition was private and details have yet to emerge Snyder told the committee

Lawmakers have been noncommital about where the panel’s investigation into Snyder and the team’s workplace misconduct goes next. But as each day drags on, the Democrat-led committee has some decisions to make — and the clock is ticking.

The House is on its August recess and, while staff members of the committee are still working, the break decreases the odds that anything significant will happen this month.

“It’s unusual for a committee to make any significant public moves during the August recess,” said Erik Jones, former counsel for the panel who now works for a District law firm. “While you can’t rule it out, it’s unlikely to see a committee take any major public actions during the August recess when members are back home in their districts.  So whatever’s coming, it’s unlikely to happen before Labor Day.  

“At the same time, it’s also important to note that lawyers for the committee do continue to work on investigations during the August recess. The work doesn’t stop,” Jones said.

The committee now has the discretion to decide if — and when — any of the information obtained during the deposition is released publicly. That could come in the form of a full transcript or in portions. “The committee has broad authority and flexibility when it comes to releasing a deposition transcript or recording,” Jones said. 

If the committee decides to release a transcript of Snyder’s testimony, there are procedural moves the panel must follow. According to Rule 15 (l) of the committee’s rules, the chair and the ranking member of the committee “shall consult in advance the release” of any deposition testimony. If either objects in writing, the matter is referred to the committee for resolution. Because members of the committee are away on recess, that would likely delay any consultation or vote on the release of the material. 

The committee must also give the witness — Snyder in this case — the opportunity to review the transcript. No later than five days after being notified, Snyder’s camp can then submit suggested changes to the chair of the committee and any request would have to be accompanied by a letter with a statement explaining the reasons for each proposed change.

“Any substantive changes, modifications, clarifications, or amendments shall be included as an appendix to the transcript conditioned upon the witness signing the transcript,” Rule 15 (j) of the House Oversight’s rules read. 

During its probe, the committee has shown a willingness to release prior testimony. Ahead of the panel’s June 22 hearing with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the committee shared key excerpts and full transcripts of four former Washington employees who it said illustrated “the extent of Mr. Snyder’s role in creating a toxic workplace at the Commanders.” 

In that case, the timing between the date of the deposition and the release of the transcript varied. The deposition for former Washington COO David Pauken, for instance, took place June 7.  But former sales executive Jason Friedman’s March 14 deposition was kept under wraps for longer. Redactions, in certain cases, were also made. 

Democratic lawmakers leading the committee have not put a timetable on when their probe of Snyder will be complete. 

In June, Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, Illinois Democrat, told reporters he was waiting on the findings of the NFL’s latest investigation into Snyder when asked about the committee’s next steps. The league tasked former Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Mary Jo White to oversee allegations of sexual misconduct and financial improprieties by the owner, who has denied all wrongdoing. 

The claims — which include Snyder making an unwanted advance at a former cheerleader by touching her leg underneath a table — originated from Congress’ probe. 

Lisa Banks, the attorney for the employees accusing Snyder, told The Washington Times that White “may have a couple more interviews” she needs to do with her clients. White also recently wrapped up a separate investigation into the Miami Dolphins.

“It says to me the next shoe to drop is going to be Mary Jo White’s report,” Banks said of the Dolphins probe concluding. “It seems to me that (the NFL) want this information to come out in the dog days of summer in August.”

Time is increasingly a factor for the committee, no matter what the NFL does. Rep. James Comer, the committee’s ranking member, told The Washington Times in June that Republicans would shut down the Snyder probe if the party wins control of the House in the November midterm elections. 

Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney, a New York Democrat, is also in a heated primary with Rep. Jerry Nadler that’s set for Aug. 23. 

In June, Ms. Maloney introduced two pieces of legislation based on the panel’s investigation into the Commanders.  The two bills aimed at preventing the use of nondisclosure agreements for sexual harassment cases and limiting the misuse of employee images.

Beyond the release of a transcript and the threat of proposed legislation that is likely to be shelved if Republicans retake the House, there don’t seem to be many obvious moves left for the panel to take.

A committee spokesperson said last month that the panel would be “prepared to compel” Snyder’s testimony upon the owner returning to the United States if he declined to answer any questions in the deposition. Upon the conclusion of the deposition, a Snyder spokesperson said the owner had “fully addressed all questions.” 

Snyder testified remotely from Israel on a voluntary basis after the two sides haggled over the format of the deposition. The committee insisted he testify under a subpoena, but eventually let him do so on a voluntary basis under oath. 

Meanwhile, the Commanders take the field Saturday for their first preseason game: football season is officially back. 

But the ongoing investigations into Snyder — at least two attorneys general are also looking into the owner, in addition to Congress and the NFL — cast a shadow over the on-the-field action. Even Ron Rivera, Washington’s coach, alluded to that late last month when the team’s training camp began.

“It’s almost expected to be honest with you,” Rivera said when asked about the Commanders constantly being in the news. “It goes in cycles.”

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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