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Former Gov. Rick Snyder testifies about his staff's role in the Flint water crisis

Former Gov. Rick Snyder testified about actions people took before and during the Flint water...
Former Gov. Rick Snyder testified about actions people took before and during the Flint water crisis as part of civil litigation on Thursday. (WJRT)
Published: Jun. 25, 2020 at 7:00 PM EDT
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(6/25/2020) - Former Gov. Rick Snyder was forced to answer questions under oath about the Flint water crisis on Thursday.

He's testifying in civil lawsuits with the hearing scheduled to last through Friday. It's only the second time Snyder has faced questioning about the crisis.

The former governor isn't sharing what he knew, but what his staff did.

The deposition was conducted over a live video chat and was not open to the public. Because this was a deposition in a civil case, what Snyder says is kept private.

This hearing actually wasn't going to happen, but earlier this month the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals ruled that Snyder has to give the deposition. But he can only speak to what others did or didn't do regarding the water crisis -- not his own actions.

"There have been lower courts that have said that he enjoys governmental immunity, so he doesn't have to testify. But that decision is still being appealed," said attorney Nicholas Robinson. "So at this time, he does not have to testify about about his role in the process."

The attorneys questioning Snyder are working to remove that governmental immunity. So, he eventually may be forced to answer questions regarding his own culpability when it comes to the cause of the water crisis and what he did or didn't do after the water was contaminated.

The first time Snyder testified under oath was before Congress in March 2016. He told lawmakers he didn't learn of the Legionnaires' disease outbreak until 2016 -- a day before he declared the water crisis an emergency and nearly a year after the first outbreak.

But during a hearing for one of the criminal cases, one of Snyder's aides suggested the emergency could have been declared sooner. Harvey Hollins testified that he told Snyder about the outbreak in December 2015.

Snyder has not been charged criminally, but Robinson said anything he says during the deposition could be used against him down the line.

"It's certainly a possibility and I can't say that for certain, but we've all heard since we were just little that anything that you say can and will be used against you," Robinson said. "So if ... there was testimony under oath, then that at the very minimum could expose him to certain perjury charges, let alone criminal responsibility for actually being culpable for all of this happen."

The Michigan Attorney General's Office is representing Snyder. A spokesman declined to comment.

More updates about the Flint water crisis civil cases will be released after the deposition is complete.