A layman's view of the legal cat-and-mouse between Dan Snyder and Congress


For the layman, following along the proceedings between Dan Snyder and the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that's been trying to subpoena the Commanders owner may seem like a complicated legalese salad of words and dates.

In steps Howard Gutman, a skilled attorney and former U.S. Ambassador to Belgium under President Obama, who joined Grant & Danny to explain what's going on in simple terms.

"I am doing fabulously watching that game of tag go on," Gutman began. "It is predictable if you were four-year-olds, not if you were the Congress and the lawyer for Dan Snyder."

"What happened is neither side could leave well enough alone," he said. "They both have to get the last word. They both have to act like four-year-olds. So it's clear everyone understands Dan Snyder is not going to testify to the U.S. Congress. He will stay first in France, then in Italy, then in Israel, then in Pago Pago, the North Pole, anywhere but America. And the Congress wants people to know they don't want the testimony. They know he's not coming."

"They want to know he's been hiding from them," he continued, "and every time they say it, Dan yells at his lawyer and says, 'Pretend I'm not hiding from them.' And so, the lawyer had to say, 'No, no, no. We want to testify. We are good citizens. We want to advance the United States Congress. We will be there voluntarily.'

"And Congress says, 'That's great. We will accept it on July 28 and July 29, the last two days Congress is in session. We're gonna accept it. But we don't really believe you. We think what you're gonna do is duck and cover. So we want something called a subpoena.'"

"The difference if you get a subpoena, is you must answer the questions," Gutman explained. "If you don't, they go to court and hold you in contempt. If you are appearing voluntarily, you answer the questions that your lawyer lets you answer, and the lawyer says, 'Oh, we'd love to answer that one, but that's covered by a non-disclosure agreement. Oh he'd love to answer that one, but that one is outside the realm of his knowledge. That's a vague question.'

"In the end, Dan Snyder would answer probably one answer he'd put on repeat: 'Oh, you must ask Bruce Allen about that. I bet ya he did that.' And other than that, Dan Snyder wasn't gonna answer a thing."

What's clear from Snyder's strategy, according to Gutman, is that Snyder will continue to find reasons to be anywhere outside of the U.S. in order to dodge the subpoena.

"Now you don't get a choice whether you get a subpoena or not," he said. "If they subpoena you, you have to show as long as they can serve the subpoena. Dan's leverage is you can't serve the subpoena if you're not in the United States. So one good thing is as long as they threaten to serve the subpoena, maybe Dan stays out of the country, and maybe he can leave the ball club alone and maybe we can win some games before he feels safe to come back in."

What powers does Congress have to force Snyder to appear?

"So they're very powerful in that they can subpoena you," Gutman said. "They get the entire U.S. Marshals to do it. The problem is the U.S. Marshals' power ends at the border. So there is a technical way to subpoena someone in a foreign country. That takes about eight months. And we all know this is a play-out-the-clock."

Gutman went on to explain that if Snyder steps foot back in the U.S., he'd be served the minute he steps off the plane at Dulles, provided that these same members of Congress are still in control. Gutman suspects that Snyder is banking on Republicans taking control of Congress in November, a much friendlier audience to Snyder which has already said they would drop the proceedings if it were up to them.

"The question Dan will ask his lawyer is, 'When is it safe that they will not be able to get me to testify before Congress turns over?'" Gutman continued. "That should be a long process, but I wouldn't risk it if I was Dan. I would be back around Super Bowl time when they're swearing in the new Congress."

The silver lining: The Commanders may get to play out an entire season without Snyder anywhere near the building.