Banker Stephen Calk never called as witness in Manafort case: A glaring omission
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ALEXANDRIA, Va. — Federal prosecutors have rested their case against Paul Manafort with a glaring omission: Chicago banker Stephen Calk wasn’t called to testify about why he approved $16 million in loans to Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager.
Emails put into evidence Monday shows how hungry Calk was for an appointment to the Trump administration — and how he inflated his importance as a player in local and national media and politics. Calk in an e-mail to Manafort listed ten “Perspective Rolls in the Trump administration in rank order” and 19 “Ambassadorships I would like in rank order.”
Calk listed his preferences for four cabinet posts, in this order: Treasury, Commerce, Defense, HUD, plus a top lesser position, Secretary of the Army.
And months after Manafort was jettisoned as Trump’s campaign manager, Manafort on Nov. 30, 2016 sent an e-mail to Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner recommending Calk for the Army post.
“On it!” Kushner replied.
Calk described the email sent to Manafort in November 2016 as a “qualifications memorandum on behalf of Stephen M. Calk articulating his qualifications to serve as the 22nd Secretary of the Army.”
The big question is why Calk, founder and CEO of The Federal Savings Bank, 300 N. Elizabeth in Chicago, was not called to testify against Manafort. Calk owns 67 percent of the bank, prosecutors said. With his brother John, the bank’s vice chairman, the Calk brothers own 80 percent of it. The remainder of the ownership is divided between three bank executive vice presidents.
The answer is this: The government put on witnesses who could buttress their case against Manafort. And Calk was not one of them.
Calk’s role in the Manafort case
Calk is no bit player in this case. His decision to push through two big loans to Manafort at the same time he was asking Manafort for help in getting a top job in the Trump administration has been the subject of testimony from other government witnesses.
On Friday, prosecutors, outside of earshot of the jury, said Calk was a “co-conspirator” with Manafort and could face unspecified “criminal liability.” It’s unclear whether that liability involves the loans to Manafort or something unrelated.
• Prosecutor: Stephen Calk, Chicago banker in Manafort trial, is ‘co-conspirator’
• Manafort suggested Chicago banker Calk as Army secretary, according to Gates
• Manafort’s Chicago banker allegedly angled to get top jobs at HUD or Treasury
• Full Sun-Times archive of stories on Stephen Calk
The emails released into evidence on Monday made Calk’s quest for a Trump appointment abundantly clear.
We know from prior testimony that Calk was pushing Manafort for Trump administration spots – either in the cabinet as HUD or Treasury secretary, or as Army secretary. Calk, who did serve in the Army, was angling for an appointment while the loans were being negotiated.
Those loans – and whether Manafort lied about the financial information he provided to Calk’s bank – are part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s tax-and-bank fraud case against Manafort.
Federal Savings Bank president Javier Ubarri, who is also knowledgeable about the loans according to testimony and emails put in evidence, was also never called by the government to testify.
Instead, three less important bank executives told jurors about the loans to Manafort.
Two of them were granted immunity – Dennis Raico, a former Federal banker who testified on Friday and James Brennan, a Federal vice president who testified on Monday.
More on Calk’s pursuit of a job from Trump
Manafort and Calk first discussed potential loans in April 2016, when the possibility of Trump becoming president seemed unlikely and shortly after Manafort joined the Trump campaign.
Discussions over loans between Manafort and Calk’s bank would continue for months. A $9.5 million loan closed on Nov. 16, 2016, just after the election. A $6.5 million loan closed on Jan. 4, 2017.
In one email put into evidence, Manafort wrote to Calk on Aug. 4, 2016, “per our conversation, I want to add you to the National Economic Advisory Committee for DJT. Is that something you would be able to do?”
The appointment was announced the next day.
Manafort resigned as campaign manager on Aug. 19, 2016, but Calk continued to use Manafort as a conduit to the Trump team.
According to another email put into evidence on Monday, Calk wrote to Manafort at 11:20 p.m. on Nov. 15, 2016, with the subject line “Stephen M. Calk – Candidate for SEC ARMY.”
Calk was asking Manafort to “review the attached document prepared at your request and advise what changes and improvements I should make. My goal is to ensure you or my designated prosper has all of the information they need to have me successfully chosen by the President-Elect.”
Among the qualifications Calk cited was his “deep reservoir of competence related to media” citing 32 interviews touting Trump during the campaign.
Calk also wrote that he “risked” his reputation by becoming a Trump supporter. He said he attended three debates, served as a “Super Surrogate” and “never wavered in his support of the President.”
John Brennan’s testimony
Brennan told the court he splits his time between Federal Savings Bank offices in Chicago and Lake Forest.
In June 2017, the FBI surprised Brennan by showing up at his house to quiz him about loans to Manafort. He was given immunity to testify.
Brennan told the jury that he would not have approved the two loans for properties in New York.
Under cross-examination by the defense, Brennan admitted he recommended the loans to the bank, despite his reservations.
Testified Brennan, one of the deals closed only because “Mr. Calk wanted it to close.”
Calk didn’t reply to a message from the Sun-Times requesting comment.