As you may have heard -- the mainstream press has been a bit slow on the uptake -- Socialist Bernie Sanders and his wife are subjects of a federal investigation into bank fraud. The couple, who honeymooned in the Soviet Union, is under scrutiny after Jane Sanders allegedly made false statements on a bank loan application while serving as president of a college in Vermont. Questions are also swirling about whether or not the Senator used his powerful position to influence the bank's decision to issue the loan, which is said to have been justified on paper with bogus information furnished by his wife. Bernie is, shall we say, not eager to discuss the matter:
Bernie, asked about the federal bank fraud probe into him & his wife: "No, that’s not what I’m talking about today" https://t.co/1xnll9i6hP— Lachlan Markay (@lachlan) June 27, 2017
Don't you hate it when the FBI probe into your family prevents you from sticking to your left-wing talking points du jour? Sanders might be forgiven for giving the "not what I'm talking about today" line a whirl, though; Democrats often find a sympathetic, narrative-advancing audience in the press corps. Bernie, especially. Here's how Politico describes Sanders' reaction to initial inquiries from local reporters last week:
Bernie Sanders was in the midst of an interview with a local TV reporter early last month when the senator fielded an unexpected question about an uncomfortable matter. “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.
Now that CBS News has reported that both Bernie and Jane Sanders are potential targets of the investigation, and they've lawyered up, trying to simply shut down questions related to the brewing scandal isn't really working. Appearing on CNN last night, an agitated Sanders deflected and distorted when asked about the situation by anchor Erin Burnett. He laughs derisively when the subject is first broached, interrupts the question, refuses to answer it (twice), then claims this was all cooked up by a Trump supporter to "attack" his wife -- which he calls "pathetic." Watch:
The RNC blasted out a fact check of Sanders' assertions, which appear to be dishonest spin. Here's the fact versus fiction assessment of crux of the matter:
Claim: Jane Sanders left Burlington College “in better shape than it had ever been.” (Jane Sanders herself has said “it was in excellent financial condition” when she left.)
Reality: The chair of Burlington College’s board of trustees called the debt Jane Sanders incurred “crushing.” She signed bank documents claiming she had $1.2 million in commitments from donors for the first year after securing the bank loan. The college received only $279,000. As longtime Sanders’ reporter Harry Jaffe concluded: "In hindsight, it’s hard to avoid blaming Jane Sanders for the Burlington College fiasco. She took over a struggling-but-functioning institution and set it on a course that led to its demise."
She wasn't the sole cause of the college's collapse, but she spearheaded a calamitous financial decision -- and is alleged to have followed-through on it by providing inaccurate information to a bank, and counting on helpful pressure from her powerful husband. That bolded quote above is from an in-depth Politico analysis, by the way, not a Republican Party press release. But speaking of the GOP, what should we make of Sanders' claim that a pro-Trump figure "launched" the investigation. Well, for starters, it's incorrect on its face. Political operatives cannot, and do not, launch federal investigations; law enforcement officials do. And the Republican in question has rightly noted that when this probe started, the DOJ was run by liberal Democrats. Once it becomes clear that there's some legitimate "there there," the partisan affiliation of the person who initially raised red flags becomes rather irrelevant. Given his 'look over there' objection on this front, it sounds as if Sanders may want to look into hiring fictional attorney Bob Loblaw. Quote: "Why should you go to jail for a crime someone else...noticed?"
Finally, there's generally bipartisan agreement that personal attacks, and even many political attacks, against spouses and families ought to be off-limits. But Jane Sanders ran Bernie's Congressional campaign and worked in his Congressional office as chief of staff. And she's still giving interviews about the future of "our movement." She's been an explicitly political actor for decades, not a bystander. Also, people who've been credibly accused of crimes are not above criticism just because they're married to prominent government officials. That may be how things operate under certain regimes admired by the Mr. and Mrs. Sanders, but it's not the case here.