Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and his wife, Jane Sanders, the former president of Burlington College, have hired lawyers in the face of a federal investigation into bank fraud allegations related to a multimillion-dollar loan for the now-defunct liberal arts college.
On Saturday, CBS News confirmed that the couple had hired high-profile defense lawyers in light of the FBI probe looking into whether Jane Sanders falsified bank documents in 2010 in an attempt to secure a $10 million loan to expand Burlington College’s campus. That loan, which was obtained, was a factor in the school shuttering its doors in 2016 after it found itself unable to pay off its debt. Jane Sanders, who served as president of Burlington College from 2004 to 2011, has been accused of falsely inflating projected donor contributions in the loan application.
The federal probe, according to Politico magazine, may also be looking into whether Sen. Sanders used his political influence to put “improper pressure” on the bank to approve that loan. The outlet said the evidence for that seems “thin at best,” but the investigation has still prompted Sanders to hire Burlington lawyer Rich Cassidy. Jane Sanders has reportedly retained Larry Robbins, a Washington-based defense attorney.
The Sanderses have kept mostly mum about the probe. During a May interview with Burlington’s WCAX-TV, however, the senator dismissed the allegations as “nonsense” and suggested they were politically motivated.
“[This] was initiated by Trump’s campaign manager, somebody who does this all of the time, has gone after a number of Democrats and progressives in this state,” said Sanders, referring to Brady Toensing, a chairman for the Trump campaign in Vermont who submitted the original complaint that led to the investigation.
Toensing has said the probe was launched in early 2016, during President Barack Obama’s tenure. “The FBI has not disclosed what prompted its investigation, but it was started more than a year ago under President Obama, his Attorney General Loretta Lynch, and his United States attorney, all of whom are Democrats,” Toensing said in a May statement, according to VTDigger.
Jeff Weaver, Sanders’ top political adviser, told CBS this week that the accusations against Sen. Sanders are “baseless” and that the bank loan in question had been “approved by the financial board at the college.”