WH won’t say if Biden will return 2020 donations from Sam Bankman-Fried

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WH won't say if Biden will return 2020 donations from Sam Bankman-Fried

WASHINGTON — White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre wouldn’t say Tuesday whether President Biden would ask his aides to return 2020 campaign contributions from accused cryptocurrency con man Sam Bankman-Fried after the Justice Department charged him with swindling investors out of at least $1.8 billion.

Bankman-Fried, 30, was one of the Democratic Party’s biggest donors and even met with Biden’s White House advisers before his FTX currency exchange collapsed in one of the largest alleged frauds in American business history.

Earlier Tuesday, federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York charged Bankman-Fried with eight counts, including conspiracy to commit campaign finance violations. Manhattan US Attorney Damian Williams claimed the illegal donations from Bankman-Fried amounted to “tens of millions of dollars.”

“The president received campaign donations [from Bankman-Fried]. Will the president return that donation? Does he call on all politicians … to return those funds?” asked Associated Press reporter Zeke Miller.

“So look, I’m covered here by the Hatch Act — [I’m] limited on what I can say and anything that’s connected to political contributions from here, I would have to refer you to the DNC,” Jean-Pierre said, citing the federal law that prohibits certain officials from advocating for candidates.

The White House refused to say if President Biden would be returning campaign donations from disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried.
The White House did not say if President Biden would be returning campaign donations from disgraced FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried.
Jeenah Moon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

“I’m asking the president’s opinion, though,” Miller pressed.

“You asked me two questions: You asked me about will he return donations and then you asked me about his opinion. I’m answering the first part, which is I’m covered by the Hatch Act from here. I’m limited on what I can say. And I just can’t talk to political contributions or anything related to that — I cannot speak to that from here,” Jean-Pierre claimed.

When asked for her answer to the other question, regarding Biden’s opinion more generally, Jean-Pierre said, “I just cannot speak to this from here, even his thoughts.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said she couldn't answer the question about Bankman-Fried because of the Hatch Act.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said she couldn’t answer the question about Bankman-Fried because of the Hatch Act.
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

“Even his opinion, even his thoughts about the contributions, donations, I cannot speak about that from here,” she added.

Violations of the Hatch Act typically involve direct support by federal officials to a candidate or party — as opposed to making a statement that could apply to candidates of both parties, such as calling on politicians to offload historical contributions.

Bankman-Fried was welcomed this year to at least two West Wing meetings by one of Biden’s top aides, Steve Ricchetti, according to visitor logs. It’s unclear who else he may have met during the April 22 and May 11 visits.

Bankman-Fried spent $10 million to help get Biden elected in 2020.
Bankman-Fried spent $10 million to help get Biden elected in 2020.
Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Bankman-Fried gave $50,000 in October 2020 to the Biden Victory Fund and another $2,800 directly to the Biden campaign that same month, according to Federal Election Commission records.

Since the collapse of FTX, the White House has referred questions about what Biden wants to do with his contributions to the Democratic National Committee, which has not responded to The Post’s inquiries.

In the 2020 election, Bankman-Fried spent $10 million backing Biden’s campaign — much of that indirectly.

Bankman-Fried was charged by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York with eight counts, including conspiracy to commit campaign finance violations.
Bankman-Fried was charged by federal prosecutors in the Southern District of New York with eight counts, including conspiracy to commit campaign finance violations.
Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images

Bankman-Fried was the second-largest donor to congressional Democrats ahead of last month’s midterm election, donating at least $39.2 million — second only to left-wing billionaire George Soros.

Although some Republicans received donations from Bankman-Fried, the money disproportionately went to Democrats.

Many members of Congress have already said they will redirect donations from Bankman-Fried and his younger brother Gabriel to charity — including Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Reps. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), Jesus “Chuy” Garcia (D-Ill.) and Kevin Hern (R-Okla.).

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