ALEXANDRIA, VA. — Chicago banker Stephen Calk pushed for a top Trump administration spot — as Treasury or Housing and Urban Development secretary — at the same time he was negotiating with Paul Manafort over $16 million in loans, with more revealing testimony about Calk’s ambitions coming Friday in Manafort’s financial crimes trial.
Earlier in the trial of Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, jurors heard testimony from Rick Gates, Manafort’s one-time deputy, that Manafort was promoting Calk to be Army Secretary while negotiating for the loans.
Calk did not get a position in the Trump White House — even as he intervened, according to court testimony on Friday, to rush approvals for two loans totaling $16 million.
Calk is founder and CEO of The Federal Savings Bank, 300 N. Elizabeth St. in Chicago.
Calk has not been called by federal prosecutors as a witness in Manafort’s trial, a curious and unexplained omission, given he was the one who expedited the loans as he was angling for Trump appointments.
On Friday, prosecutors put on the stand Dennis Raico, who worked out of Federal’s Manhattan office from 2015 until last January. Raico testified under a grant of immunity.
On Nov. 11, 2016 – days after Trump’s election – Raico said he got a call from Calk, who “thought he would be up for some role in the Trump administration.”
Raico testified that those roles were as secretary of one of two departments: Treasury or Housing and Urban Development. (editor’s note: the paragraph above has been corrected.)
Raico said Calk asked him to call Manafort to ask if he would be joining Trump’s cabinet. Asked if he made that call, Raico said “no.”
Prosecutors also called as a witness Andrew Chojnowski, a Park Ridge resident who is Federal’s chief operating officer for home lending and has worked at the Chicago bank for more than six years.
Chojnowski’s brief testimony was mainly about how the documents Manafort signed noted that it was illegal to make false statements to get loans.
On Monday, expected to be the last day of the trial, jurors are expected to hear from James Brennan, who also was an officer at The Federal Savings Bank. Brennan was granted immunity.
This is the first trial for special counsel Robert Mueller and his team.
Raico was the main witness on Friday.
• Manafort joined the Trump campaign as convention manager on March 29, 2016. He was promoted to campaign manager on May 19, then resigned under a cloud on Aug. 19.
But Gates remained with the campaign and then the Trump transition team, putting him in a position to still be helpful to Manafort when it came to Calk.
• At issue are two loans. A $9.5 million loan was approved by Federal on Nov. 16, 2016, just after Trump was elected on Nov. 8.
A $6.5 million loan was approved by Federal on Jan. 4, 2017, in advance of Trump’s Jan. 20 inauguration.
• The prosecutors allege Manafort lied on bank loan documents and used email evidence and Raico’s testimony as part of their proof.
• Manafort’s defense team on Friday was able to draw a much different picture from Raico: that as a bottom line, the loans had more than enough collateral.
Most telling from the defense was a total lack of mention of any attempt to help Calk get a Trump administration job. On Raico’s cross-examination, it never came up. That’s because to the defense, whatever side deal Calk and Manafort were perhaps trying to make about an appointment — if indeed that’s the case — was not germane.
More on Raico’s testimony:
In court, Raico testified Calk was pushing to expedite the Manafort loans and that he was directly involved.
Manafort started discussions with Federal about a loan in April 2016, for property deals he was working on with his then son-in-law — at a time when he was with the Trump campaign.
Raico flagged Manafort to Calk.
Asked why, Raico said, he “came to learn” Manafort was in politics, “and I knew Steve was interested in politics.”
Calk “wanted to meet him,” and Raico, Manafort, Calk and others dined at the Capitol Grille in New York with “politics” and “loans” among the subjects. Calk and Manafort talked privately at the dinner.
Calk participated in a July 27 meeting with Manafort and his son-in-law via a video conference. At the end of the call, Calk “indicated he would be interested in helping” Trump.
The loan was approved the next day. Raico agreed when asked that he had never seen a loan approval that fast.
Jurors were shown an Aug. 3, 2016 e-mail from Manafort to Raico with the subject line, “Need Steve Calk resume,” and a request in the note for Calk’s “curriculum vitae.”
Not introduced into evidence or mentioned on Friday was that the Trump campaign on Aug. 5, 2016 appointed Calk to be on Trump’s economic advisory board.
Manafort’s income statements in his loan applications raised question back in Chicago.
The problem, said Raico, was that “A plus B didn’t equal C all the time.”
Raico also testified about an e-mail sent by Javier Ubarri, the president of The Federal Savings Bank saying they should not go forward with a loan that was eventually granted.
Ubarri wrote in the October 2016 email put in evidence that it is “important” for Manafort know that “we value the relationship that he has with Steve immensely.”
Who is Stephen Calk?
• He is a Kenilworth resident, according to Cook County voting records.
• Calk was born Oct., 23, 1954, the same records show.
• He has pulled Republican ballots in Illinois primaries from 2010 through 2016, with no record of his voting in the Illinois primary last March.
• Calk has not taken on any leading role in Illinois or national politics.
• According to Calk’s bio on his bank website, he was commissioned as an Army officer on May 25, 1985, and is a “graduate of the United States Army Aviation School and served in both active and reserve status as a combat tactical helicopter pilot and commander for over 16 years.”
• The same bio notes he attended the West Point prep school; that is not the same as being accepted into West Point.
• Calk received an undergraduate degree from the University of Illinois at Champaign/Urbana and an MBA from Northwestern’s Kellogg School. He has taken some classes for executives at Harvard’s Business School.