A former chairman of the House Oversight and Reform committee — who now serves as legal counsel for the Washington Commanders — said in a letter Wednesday that the congressional panel investigating owner Dan Snyder has “set out” to “destroy” the embattled billionaire.
In a letter addressed to committee Chairwoman Carolyn B. Maloney, former Republican congressman and lawyer Tom Davis accused the New York Democrat of running an investigation that “has not been fair, thorough, or bipartisan, and it certainly hasn’t sought the truth” — writing the probe’s “singular purpose” has only been to drive Snyder out of the NFL.
The nine-page document, obtained by The Washington Times, marks the latest — and perhaps most aggressive — attempt from Mr. Snyder’s team aimed at discrediting the committee’s nearly yearlong investigation. Snyder remotely testified for nearly 11 hours in a deposition with the committee in July, a month after he declined to testify publicly at a hearing.
Davis, a former Virginia representative who chaired the committee from 2003 to 2007, wrote that he was attempting to “raise some concerns” about how the panel has conducted its probe ahead of its possible conclusion.
“This investigation reeks of the lowest form of politics and its only purpose is personal destruction,” wrote Davis, who once oversaw the Committee’s investigation into steroid usage in Major League Baseball. “Rather than seeking the truth, the Committee has ignored exculpatory evidence and buried favorable witnesses.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee began looking into Snyder and the Commanders last fall amid renewed criticism over the NFL’s decision to not release a written report into the team’s workplace misconduct scandal.
Since then, the probe has unearthed numerous allegations against Snyder and the Commanders. In February, former employee Tiffani Johnston told members of Congress that Snyder harassed her by touching her thigh underneath a dinner table and later by trying to coax her into his limo. A month later, former sales executive Jason Friedman accused the Commanders of committing financial improprieties, such as intentionally withholding security deposit refunds to season-ticket holders.
A committee spokesperson said in a statement Wednesday that the panel’s focus has been to “uncover the truth about the decades-long hostile workplace culture” at the Commanders and find “legislative solutions” to the issues. Over the summer, Maloney introduced two bills that aimed at further preventing workplace misconduct.
“Although the Commanders’ owner has recently claimed to have turned over a new leaf, this latest effort to attack and intimidate former employees who have come forward casts doubt on this assertion — as does the team’s continued efforts to block the production of documents to the Committee,” a committee spokesperson said. “The Committee’s investigation will not be deterred by such tactics.”
In Davis’ letter, the attorney objected to the committee’s findings from a June memo that said Snyder ran a “shadow investigation” into his accusers. He wrote that the committee refused to acknowledge any efforts were part of a search to “uncover evidence of unlawful conduct directed against him and his family were proper and separate from the NFL’s workplace investigation” during a dispute with his now former minority partners. Davis said the NFL was aware of the efforts and dispute, which resulted in Snyder buying out the stakeholders for $875 million.
Davis also pushed back against the committee relying on the testimony of four former team employees — Johnston, Friedman, David Pauken and former team president Bruce Allen — who were “the same people who were responsible for the toxic workplace culture — and has given them a platform to settle old scores.”
The committee interviewed Allen for roughly 10 hours last month.
“The fraternity-house culture that Mr. Allen instilled in the Commanders’ organization is the principal reason that the Commanders came under investigation in the first place,” Davis wrote. “If the Committee had desired, it could have interviewed any of the current employees of the Commanders whose tenure extended back to the Allen years. Those employees would, almost universally, have identified Mr. Allen’s departure as the date that the Team culture began to turn around.”
Davis wrote the committee has made no attempt to interview current team employees and has shown “little interest” in the team’s efforts to change its workplace culture. He also accused the committee of making no attempt to speak with witnesses who could undercut Johnston’s testimony, such as Snyder’s driver or two attorneys who represented him around the time Johnston said the incident took place.
“For reasons the Committee has refused to share publicly, Ms. Johnston was not required to take an oath prior to presenting her story,” Davis wrote. “By contrast, Mr. Snyder was required to provide sworn testimony, and sternly admonished by Committee counsel of the criminal consequences of providing false testimony. Mr. Snyder testified that he did not recall ever meeting Ms. Johnston and certainly did not recall ever dining with her.
“Mr. Snyder, and numerous other current and former employees of the Commanders’ organization are prepared to testify that they do not recall Mr. Snyder ever dining with any cheerleader in a setting such as that portrayed by Ms. Johnston.”
Numerous times in the letter, Davis refers to Snyder’s testimony from his deposition. No transcript from the deposition has been released, though Davis said Snyder maintained to the committee that he preserves personal calendars from more than 15 years ago.
Those calendars, Davis wrote, reveal “no event even resembling the event described by Ms. Johnston,” who told reporters the incident happened in 2005 or 2006.
Davis’ letter was co-signed by Stuart Nash and John Brownlee, two other attorneys for the Commanders.
“Although I believe the Committee will fail in its effort to push Mr. Snyder from the NFL because Mr. Snyder is innocent of the allegations against him,” Davis wrote, “I harbor no illusions that this Committee will change its present course or behavior.
“My only hope is that the American people — who are the ultimate judges — will see this investigation for what it is, a politically inspired hatchet job, and begin the process of removing the stain this investigation has placed on the Committee that I so respect and love.”
• Matthew Paras can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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