Sen. Bernie Sanders (I., Vt.) has reacted with dodging or hostility to questions about the reported FBI investigation into his wife Jane Sanders surrounding her tenure as head of the now-defunct Burlington College.
The couple has retained legal counsel amid the probe into allegations of bank fraud, Politico reported. A federal investigation is probing allegations that Jane Sanders fraudulently obtained a bank loan for the college while she was at the helm, while the senator himself is being looked at for using his influence to pressure the bank to approve the loan.
Sanders was asked about the allegations in a May interview with local Vermont TV station WCAX, and he was in no hurry to directly discuss the matter, Politico reported:
"There's an implication, and from at least one individual, an explicit argument that when they called for an investigation into Burlington College that you used your influence to secure a loan from People's United—"
The senator cut him off.
Sanders is used to fielding softball questions from an adoring local press, but his inquisitor, Kyle Midura of Burlington TV station WCAX, had a rare opportunity to put him on the spot. Investigative reporters had been breaking stories about a federal investigation into allegations that the senator's wife, Jane Sanders, had committed fraud in obtaining bank loans for the now defunct Burlington College, and that Sanders's Senate office had weighed in.
"Well, as you know," he said, "it would be improp—this implication came from Donald Trump's campaign manager in Vermont. Let me leave it at that, because it would be improper at this point for me to say anything more."
Midura leaned in. "You've previously said it was nonsense."
"Yes," Sanders responded, "it is nonsense. But now that there is a process going on, which 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. It would be improper at this point for me to add any more to that."
Sanders simply talked about health care when asked about the investigation by a Fox News producer last week, the Washington Free Beacon reported.
"Where are you from?" Sanders asked as he walked.
"Fox News," Rowland said. "CBS is reporting on this. Politico is reporting on this. Do you still believe it's politically motivated, sir?"
Sanders ignored Rowland's question and instead started talking about health care, a hot topic on Capitol Hill with the release of the Senate Republican bill meant to replace Obamacare.
"Well I'm glad that you're interested in the fact that the Republican leadership is proposing legislation which would throw millions of people off of health insurance," Sanders told Rowland.
When CNN's Erin Burnett broached the topic, Sanders grew irritated and snapped at her:
"Excuse me, excuse me," Sanders shouted. "My wife is about the most honest person I know. When she came to that college, it was failing financially and academically. When she left it, it was in better shape than it had ever been."
Sanders then defended his wife by saying that the investigation into her was a politically motivated move by Brady Toensing, a chairman for the Donald Trump campaign in Vermont.
"All that I will tell you now, Erin, it is a sad state of affairs in America. Not only when we have politicians being destroyed … when there are attacks against elected officials. When you go after your wife, people's wives, that is pretty pathetic and that's where we are right now, and that's about all I'm going to say," Sanders said.
Burnett followed up again and asked Sanders whether he had any knowledge of the FBI investigating his wife.
Sanders said that he would not talk about it anymore and will "let it play out."
MSNBC's Chris Hayes asked Sanders directly last week if it was true that he used his office to secure financing for Burlington College. Sanders repeated that the charge was politically motivated and was an "absolute lie."