Bernie Sanders: My wife left Burlington College 'in better shape than it had ever been'

Last week I wrote about Jane Sanders’ decision to hire an attorney to defend herself in an ongoing FBI investigation. Mrs. Sanders is being investigated for her role in turning a struggling liberal arts college in Vermont, Burlington College, into a debt-ridden mess which collapsed five years after she was pushed out as its president. Tuesday, CNN asked Bernie Sanders about the investigation and he defended his wife and then refused to confirm or deny the FBI’s involvement.

“My wife is about the most honest person I know,” Sanders said. He continued, “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.

“Five years later, just at the moment coincidentally no doubt, when I am a candidate for President of the United States, Donald Trump’s campaign manager…vice chairman of the Republican Party in Vermont, launched this investigation.” Sanders then lamented that his wife was under attack solely because he had run for president. Pressed on whether the FBI was investigating, he refused to say more. Here’s the clip:

Sanders is really stretching when he claims his wife left the school in better shape than when she arrived. This Politico story on the situation makes it clear the debt load acquired by Jane Sanders played a big role in the school’s gradual demise:

Burlington’s free fall accelerated after the board forced out Sanders. The school had moved into the old buildings on its new campus, and though Sanders had budgeted for more than $3 million in renovations, the structures were in need of rehabilitation that would cost substantially more. Unable to increase enrollment to pay for the added costs, the school lost students.

To stave off bankruptcy, the college sold off pieces of its prime lake shore land to a local developer. Proceeds from the sales allowed the school to pay down some of the debt Jane Sanders had brought on in 2010. Yves Bradley, chairman of the board at the time, called the debt load “crushing.”

As for the claim that this is all the result of a Republican attack, it’s true that one of the people who gathered documents on this situation and requested an investigation is the vice chairman of the Republican Party in Vermont. However, that digging began in 2014 after an alternative weekly published a story about the situation. This was not a last-minute GOP hit job based on the fact that Sanders was running for President. In any case, the FBI investigation has apparently been going on for at least a year. Sanders and his wife could eventually be vindicated but the fact that they have hired an attorney suggests this is not about to go away.