That Is An Absolute Lie, Bernie Sanders says of Burlington College claims

Sen. Bernie Sanders delivered a speech on the Senate floor last night regarding Republicans’ health care plan, June 20, 2017. Courtesy Office of Sen. Bernie Sanders

BURLINGTON, Vt. — Facing more questions about Burlington College, Sen. Bernie Sanders is denying that his office exerted any pressure to help secure a loan for the small liberal-arts school once led by his wife.

Appearing Thursday night on MSNBC, the Vermont independent and former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination responded directly to allegations from a prominent Republican lawyer regarding the senator’s involvement in helping Jane O’Meara Sanders secure financing for the now-shuttered college.

“That is an absolute lie,” Sanders told journalist Chris Hayes, host of the show All In. They spent the bulk of the seven-minute segment discussing health care.

Lawyer Brady Toensing, a former official with the state Republican Party and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, filed complaints with various federal agencies last year against Jane Sanders. At issue is a land deal she helped broker in 2010 for Burlington College to buy the former headquarters of the state Roman Catholic Diocese in Burlington for $10 million.

Burlington College received a bank loan for the purchase. Jane Sanders said increased college enrollment and pledged donations would help pay for the land deal, but neither materialized. She left the college in 2011. In May 2016, Burlington College officials said the school was closing under the “crushing weight of debt,” mostly from the property purchase.

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A Toensing complaint in May 2016 claimed he was “recently approached and informed” that Bernie Sanders’ senatorial office pressured the bank to approve the loan. But the document offered no information about what is said to have occurred or who the source was of Toensing’s information.

Hayes asked Sanders about that claim Thursday, two days after the senator defended his wife’s integrity on CNN and called a federal investigation politically motivated but otherwise declined to discuss the matter.

“There are some serious allegations,” Hayes said on MSNBC, noting that Bernie and Jane Sanders have lawyers. “I know that you’ve said that this is politically motivated, but I do want to ask you on the record, face to face. The most serious allegation is that you improperly used your office to help secure financing for loans for Burlington College, and I want to ask you on the record if that’s true.”

“And do you know where that allegation came from?” Sanders responded. “That allegation came from the vice chairman of the Vermont Republican Party and Donald Trump’s Vermont campaign state director. That is an absolute lie.

“But, you know, that’s what you expect from the Trump administration and people associated with Donald Trump,” Sanders continued. “These people do not choose to debate the real issues facing the American people, whether it’s their disastrous health care bill, whether it’s climate change, whether it’s their attack on women’s rights, or so many other issues.”

A family spokesman for Bernie and Jane Sanders has said that federal investigators have made no contact with the couple. Members of Burlington College’s board have told the Burlington Free Press and other news outlets that the FBI has been in touch.

Follow Adam Silverman on Twitter: @wej12

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