Sanders has lawyered up under accusations of corruption. According to the accusations, she obtained bank loans for Burlington College, a now-defunct liberal arts college with approximately 200 undergraduates that she served as president of from 2004 to 2011. One of the tenets of the loans was that Burlington had to provide evidence of at least $2 million in donations as collateral.
The three largest donors claimed by Burlington – including one who allegedly donated $1 million – would later claim the school misrepresented the size of their donations.
Burlington fell into severe financial difficulties under Jane Sanders' leadership. Enrollment fell and donations dropped. During 2010, Sanders purchased 33 acres of property to expand the college. To raise money for this expansion, she took out the loan in question, but the expansion that it paid for failed to increase enrollment. In 2011, Sanders stepped down from her position as president. In 2014, the school was placed under probation, and in 2016 it closed for good.
To defend herself, Sanders has hired two well-known lawyers: Rich Cassidy and Larry Robbins. Robbins in particular is famous in DC for defending high-profile figures like Scooter Libby, an advisor to former Vice President Dick Cheney, who was indicted for lying under oath and obstruction of justice in 2005. Libby also defended Representative Bill Jefferson (D-LA), who in 2009 was sentenced to 13 years in federal prison after being found guilty of accepting bribes.
The Trump administration has yet to announce the federal attorney that will be prosecuting the case.
In May 2017, Brady Toensing, who chaired President Donald Trump's campaign in the state of Vermont, sent a letter to the FBI which alleged that Sanders used her political capital to falsely acquire the loans. The letter, released online, claimed that Sanders had "successfully and intentionally engaged in a fraudulent scheme to actively conceal and misrepresent material facts from a federal financial institution."
Kyle Midura of Burlington TV station WCAX asked Jane's husband, then-candidate Bernie, if his wife had committed fraud or not. After several attempts to avoid the question, Sanders answered. "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 then asked Sanders if the charge was nonsense. "Yes," Bernie 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.
VTDigger, an online outlet, broke the news that the FBI was reviewing Burlington College records, subpoenaing a former employee of the college in November 2016.
"[Sanders' lawyers] wanted information on what I had been asked by the FBI. They were trying to get clarification on what the accusations are because they had not been contacted by anybody as to an investigation," said Coralee Holm, the former dean of operations and advancement for Burlington College to VTDigger.