WASHINGTON – The powerful House committee investigating Washington leaders has been trying for weeks to impeach Dan Snyder, the owner of the embattled team. But Snyder positioned himself thousands of miles away, thus far frustrating the commission’s efforts to serve a subpoena for him.
Now both sides are taking this high-stakes political dance to a new level of intrigue.
The House Oversight and Reform Committee told Snyder’s attorney Tuesday that it will allow Snyder to testify over Zoom on July 28, from anywhere — under the force of a subpoena, essentially forcing him to answer their questions during the oath.
Snyder and his team responded on Wednesday that he was willing to come voluntarily, as previously offered, and that “there is no legitimate need for a summons.”
The fight has no clear end in sight, due to an unusual tactic at Snyder’s disposal: stopping the boat. He has spent his final weeks abroad, often on his yacht – where it appears he cannot in fact be served with a subpoena that the commission insists on. Snyder’s lawyer says it is unfair to suggest that he refused to cooperate when the crime was committed. To participate, including by providing a detailed description of his schedule and proposing a date of 28 July primarily for voluntary certification. The letter also indicated that the committee had received a letter from Snyder’s mother’s rabbi explaining his religious duties in Israel.
A spokesperson for Snyder said: “The oversight committee refuses to accept ‘yes’ for an answer.”
Snyder missed the June 22 committee hearing, in which NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell testified remotely, and where he was called to appear voluntarily, because Snyder was in France, according to his attorney. Since then, his yacht has been traversing some of the most luxurious locations in the Mediterranean. His lawyer also told the committee that he will soon be traveling to Israel, where he will be all the way until August, to celebrate the anniversary of his mother’s death.
Subpoenas must be served directly to their subject, in person, unless the attorney agrees to accept one on his client’s behalf—which Snyder’s attorney refused to do. And it is nearly impossible, if not entirely impossible, to file subpoenas for Congress abroad, even when someone is on dry land.
The Democratic-controlled committee has been stalking Snyder for months over the Washington team’s workplace culture and the league’s response, squabbling with his attorney over dates, locations — and the terms of any interview or testimony he gives.
Snyder’s attorney also raised his broader objections to the commission’s investigation, including lawmakers’ unwillingness to limit any questions to Snyder to “historical workplace culture issues,” discussing witnesses they met, or allegations they heard, as part of the investigation. . On Wednesday, the lawyer wrote that it was “disingenuous” to say that he refused to cooperate, when it was the committee that held out in response to his offer on July 28.
At a previous round table hosted by the Committee, a former employee aired a new sexual harassment allegation against the owner — which led to a new investigation into the NFL. Snyder denied the accusation.
The committee chair, Representative Carolyn Maloney of New York, said she would not hesitate to seek Snyder’s testimony, and announced her plans at the June hearing to issue a subpoena to compel her to do so. On Tuesday, she rejected a proposal from Snyder to appear voluntarily, saying she did not want to allow Snyder to impose any condition that would prevent him from being asked about incidents covered by non-disclosure agreements — especially after a month’s delay.
“Mr. Her letter said that Snyder has a troubling history of using nondisclosure agreements to cover up workplace misconduct — conduct central to our investigation — and it would be wholly inappropriate for him to use the same tactic to withhold information from the Commission.
A spokesman for Snyder said his attorneys are “reviewing the committee’s letter to determine whether their concerns about due process, including the circumstances of Mr. Snyder’s appearance, have been appropriately addressed.”
It is not unusual for individuals to hesitate to participate in a congressional investigation, or even to try to run out of time based on the commission’s best interest. However, trying to avoid a summons is a different matter. It is almost unknown that they will attempt to do so by staying out of the country.
“The rule in Washington, D.C., is that attorneys accept the service electronically. Dave Rapallo, a longtime Democratic staff director on the Oversight Committee and now an associate professor of law at Georgetown University, said:
“I’ve worked on Capitol Hill for over 20 years and have never seen anyone purposely evade a congressional subpoena in this way.”
In recent weeks, Snyder’s yacht has been in Cannes, France, which has been hosting a major advertising and marketing festival. Then it moved across the blue waters of the French Riviera.
It has moved from near Cap d’Antibes to the northern tip of Corsica, the lush French island of natural beauty in the Mediterranean, according to Vesselfinder.com, a website that tracks ship movements. He has since gone to Sardinia, the posh Italian island, and Panarea, part of the chain of islands north of Sicily.
Snyder faces the possibility that American marshals will serve him once he returns to American soil. The Leaders play their first pre-season game on August 13, while the regular season kicks off in September.
There are a few examples of people who avoided a subpoena by being overseas, and cases people can remember led to the subject and the committee striking a deal.
Michael Perino, a professor at St. John’s University Law School, said banker Charles Mitchell was called as part of a congressional investigation into the causes of the Wall Street crash in the early 1930s, but replied that he was going abroad. .
The investigation’s chief counsel, Ferdinand Pecora, agreed to defer Mitchell’s testimony request in exchange for his documents, Perino said, although Mitchell backfired because the 1933 banking crisis had engulfed him by the time he returned.
Charles Teffer, a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law, called a witness the House Iran-Contra Committee—of which Tiffer was an advisor—was looking for. Tefer recalls that the witness was in Europe, and eventually agreed to a plan for the commission’s staff to come to him to take his statement.
But while staying away without a compromise may carry Snyder’s reputation risk, there is very little Congress can do about it, certainly not quickly.
Tifer said that while it is possible — if daunting — to file a subpoena in another country, even that option is not available in a congressional subpoena.
“Traditionally, no one outside can be reached through a congressional subpoena,” Tefer said.
He added that a subpoena is one element in finding someone to be in contempt of Congress. “You cannot be in contempt unless you are properly introduced, or appear and refuse to answer questions.”
Republican committee members publicly criticized the Washington team’s investigation as a waste of time and resources, and vowed to abandon it if they seize control of the House after the November midterm elections.
Maloney will remain in office until January, and some Democrats will almost certainly argue her to move forward with the investigation during the lame-duck convention, if for no other reason than to preserve the commission’s authority for all future holders of her seat.
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