Reporters asked White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre on Tuesday about the several meetings top Biden administration officials held with former FTX CEO Sam Bankman-Fried, who faces several fraud and money laundering charges.
Bankman-Fried garnered controversy after users learned that he commingled funds between cryptocurrency exchange platform FTX and sister trading firm Alameda Research, losing untold billions’ worth of assets as customers rushed to withdraw their balances. The disgraced entrepreneur’s extensive political connections came to light in the weeks after his company’s bankruptcy, including the $39 million he donated to Democrats ahead of the midterms and four meetings he was granted at the White House with top officials Steve Richetti and Bruce Reed.
Jean-Pierre was questioned by a reporter about the meetings and asked to provide “any sort of summary of what has been discussed” during a Tuesday press briefing. She responded that officials discussed “pandemic prevention” and “general information on the cryptocurrency industry” with the former executive, adding that the administration has supported new regulations on digital assets.
“The White House regularly engages with officials from a range of industries and sectors, including leaders in business and labor and nonprofits,” Jean-Pierre remarked.
Beyond emerging as one of the top overall political contributors during the midterm elections, Bankman-Fried was the second-largest donor to the campaign which successfully placed President Joe Biden in the White House. Reporters questioned Jean-Pierre last month on whether the administration believes Democratic organizations should return the funds donated by Bankman-Fried; she declined to answer the question by invoking the Hatch Act, which limits most federal employees from certain political and campaign activities.
“That is still the case,” Jean-Pierre said on Tuesday when pressed on the matter. “I don’t have anything to share or any change of my comments that I’ve made before on this.”
Gabriel Bankman-Fried, the younger brother of Bankman-Fried and the head of the organization Guarding Against Pandemics, also participated in one of the meetings and received a rendezvous of his own. Joseph Bankman and Barbara Fried, the brothers’ parents, are well-connected within Democratic circles.
The Senate Majority PAC, which exists to elect Democrats to the upper chamber of Congress, announced plans to return $3 million donated by Bankman-Fried and Nishad Singh, who served as head of engineering for FTX. The Democratic National Committee, as well as the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, issued similar commitments as bankruptcy lawyers seek to claw back funds on behalf of customers and investors.
Among the beneficiaries of Bankman-Fried’s donations were House Democrat Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-NY), Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA).
Bankman-Fried pleaded not guilty on Tuesday to eight charges, which include conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to commit securities fraud, and conspiracy to defraud the Federal Election Commission through campaign finance violations. Mark Cohen, a lawyer for Bankman-Fried who formerly defended Jeffrey Epstein confidant Ghislaine Maxwell, successfully requested that U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan permit the sealing of the names and addresses of two individuals who secured Bankman-Fried’s $250 million bond due to attention drawn to the case, which has dominated headlines for more than two months.