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Chicago banker’s pursuit of Trump administration job detailed in new court filing

Stephen Calk, a Northfield resident, was indicted in May for what federal prosecutors in New York called a bribery scheme.

Attorney Jeremy Margolis (left) with client Stephen Calk (center)
Attorney Jeremy Margolis (left) with client Stephen Calk (center).
Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

A newly unsealed court document paints a fuller picture of the relentless, at times desperate pursuit by Chicago banker Stephen Calk of a top Trump administration job, including pressuring his bank to make $16 million in risky loans to Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager.

According to the affidavit, Calk also enlisted Steve Bannon, who at the time was a key Trump strategist, and Anthony Scaramucci, a member of Trump’s transition team, to help as he worked his way into Trump’s transition inner circle.

With the loans pending, Calk, who saw himself as a future Trump cabinet member, ambassador or, as a fallback, at least getting a lesser postion, was anxious about how his bid to become Army secretary was doing, according to a Dec. 5, 2016, e-mail to Manafort, who had left the Trump campaign but still had influence.

Calk wrote: “President Elect Trump will be in Michigan on Friday. Should we arrange a meeting while he is near by? Do you think we are making any progress re: SECARMY?”

Manafort replied: “He is not doing meetings on the road on these types of matters. I will be calling you later today with updates.”

Calk, who lives in Northfield, is the founder of The Federal Savings Bank of Chicago, 300 N. Elizabeth St., and until May was its chief executive officer.

Calk was indicted in May for what federal prosecutors in New York said was a bribery scheme: leveraging the risky Manafort loans to try to get a Trump administration position. Calk is charged with financial institution bribery.

The New York charges are an outgrowth of the Calk pay-to-play scheme that came to light last year in former special prosecutor Robert Mueller’s Russia probe case against Manafort.

During the Manafort trial, held in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia, and in related documents, details surfaced about Calk’s audacious bid for a cabinet post or ambassadorship while the financially troubled Manafort was seeking loans.

What’s new are additional details of Calk’s hunger for a Trump position — and how he worked his way up through the appointment process, even though a job never materialized.

This additional information emerged when an affidavit from an FBI agent filed on June 26, 2017, before a federal magistrate judge in Chicago was unsealed Friday. It appears to be the first document filed in Chicago’s federal court to go public that touches on the investigation into the Trump 2016 campaign.

Manafort is serving a seven-and-a-half year federal sentence and facing more charges filed by state prosecutors in New York.

Calk, who has pleaded not guilty in New York, had reason to believe Manafort had the clout to get him a job. In August 2016, as the loan discussions began, Manafort arranged for Calk to be a member of the Trump Economic Advisory Council, got him into debates and the “spin room” and inauguration invitations.

With Calk pushing despite red flags, Manafort got a $9.5 million loan on Nov. 16, 2016, just after Trump was elected on Nov. 8, and another loan, for $6.5 million, on Jan. 4, ahead of Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

Other details gleaned from the affidavit to support a search warrant of Calk’s iPhone:

• As the loans were being processed, an employee of The Federal Savings Bank of Chicago, Anna Ivakhnik, was suspicious. She lost her job. According to a footnote in the affidavit, “The official reason for her termination was failure to follow TFSB’s procedures but that she believed that she was fired for refusing sexual advances from Calk.” She filed a complaint with the New York City Committee on Human Rights.

• According to the affidavit, during the transition, on Dec. 27, 2016, “Calk sent an email to ‘Jim,’ which was answered by an assistant to Gen. James Mattis, who at that time had been announced by then-President-elect Trump as prospective nominee for Secretary of Defense. Calk wrote: ‘I believe that Steve Bannon will be speaking to you again about me today.’”

• The affidavit states that Calk actually was scheduled for an interview at Trump Tower on Jan. 10, 2017 with, among others, former Rep. John Sweeney, R-N.Y., a transition team member.

• On Jan. 12, 2017, after the Trump Tower interview, Calk wrote to Mattis’ assistant to follow up on his request for a meeting with Mattis. “I know that Anthony Scaramucci and others will be reaching out on my behalf as well.”

• Ivakhnik told FBI agents that in August 2016, bank vice president John Brennan told her “to put any communications related to the Manafort loan into emails because this matter would be ‘investigated by the FBI.’”

Scaramucci did not return a call or email asking for comment.