Sen. Bernie Sanders pointed the finger squarely at Republicans for kicking up a federal probe into allegations his wife fraudulently obtained a loan for the Vermont college she once led, saying Sunday the Republican National Committee is “very excited” about the controversy.
The interview marked the 2016 presidential candidate’s latest effort to downplay the FBI investigation, which reportedly is looking at whether Jane Sanders committed fraud to get a $10 million loan for a Burlington College expansion.
Asked on CNN’s “State of the Union” about the case, Sen. Sanders quickly pointed out how the allegations first surfaced.
“I know this will shock the viewers -- the vice-chairman of the Vermont Republican Party who happened to be Donald Trump's campaign manager raised this issue and initiated this investigation,” he said. “… I think what you're looking at is something that [the] Republican National Committee is very excited about.”
The Vermont independent senator adamantly denied that he or his staff ever reached out to the bank in question to approve any loans related to the transaction – and defended his wife.
“My wife is perhaps the most honest person I know. She did a great job in Burlington College,” Sanders said. “Sadly we are in a moment where parties not only attack public officials, they have to go after wives and children. You know, this is pathetic and that's the way politics is in America today.”
The comments track with others the senator made last week dismissing the probe as a “pathetic” and political attack.
The Republican Sanders referred to in his CNN interview was Brady Toensing, a former Donald Trump presidential campaign official who wrote the original complaint. The complaint, however, raised numerous red flags about the application that might not be so easily ignored, including the sources she listed as proof of the school's ability to repay.
The loan was arranged by Sanders’ wife when she was president of the now-closed college to acquire 33 acres of lakefront property to improve and expand the small, non-traditional school.
People close to the couple, including Sanders' presidential campaign manager Jeff Weaver, have confirmed that the independent senator and his wife each have retained a lawyer in connection with the case.
Jane Sanders, college president from 2004-2011, structured the loan deal in two parts -- a $6.5 million loan from People’s United Bank to buy tax-exempt bonds issued by a state agency that signed off on the deal and a $3.65 million second mortgage from the Roman Catholic Dioceses of Burlington.
To secure the money, Sanders submitted a spreadsheet that attempted to show the school had $2.4 million in confirmed pledges, grants and other funds to repay the debt.
The document -- obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request and listed as exhibit B in the original complaint -- showed the money would come from 40 separate entries.
However, each entry was denoted only by initials, under such categories as “friends” or “faculty and staff” and with no additional documentation, according to the complaint filed to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp.’s office of the inspector general.