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Manafort's Banker Tried to Bribe His Way Into Becoming Trump’s Treasury Secretary with $16 Million in Loans

Stephen Calk, 54, approved $16 million worth of loans to Manafort, President Trump’s disgraced former campaign chairman, while forwarding a list of senior administration positions and ambassadorships he wanted in exchange, prosecutors said in a statement

by Greg Walters
May 23 2019, 3:02pm

WASHINGTON — Paul Manafort once tried to help a small-time Chicago banker score a top job in the Trump administration while taking millions of dollars in loans from him. Now, that banker’s been charged with bribery.

Stephen Calk, 54, approved $16 million worth of loans to Manafort, President Trump’s disgraced former campaign chairman, while forwarding a list of senior administration positions and ambassadorships he wanted in exchange, prosecutors said in a statement Thursday.

“As alleged, Calk went to great lengths to avoid banking violations in an attempt to secure a senior position in a presidential administration,” FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said in a statement. “His attempt at petitioning for political favors was unsuccessful in more ways than one – he didn’t get the job he wanted, and he compromised the one he had.”

Calk was charged in the Southern District of New York with one count of financial institution bribery, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

While Manafort’s loans were pending, Calk sent a memo to Manafort indicating his top choice was to be made Trump’s Treasury secretary. If that didn’t work out, Calk wanted to be deputy secretary of the Treasury, secretary of Commerce, or secretary of Defense, prosecutors said.

Calk also would have liked to be an ambassador, and forwarded a ranked list to Manafort of 19 ambassadorships starting with the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Italy.

Calk’s name emerged repeatedly during Manafort’s own trial, in which the lifelong political operative was charged with a raft of financial crimes, including tax fraud and bank fraud, involving the loans taken from Calk’s Federal Savings Bank. Manafort was found guilty, and sentenced to roughly seven years in prison.

During the summer of 2016, when the presidential campaign was in full swing, Calk approved lending Manafort $9.5 million. After Trump won the election, Manafort and Calk began discussing a second set of loans worth $6.5 million. And that was when Manafort, who had already quit the Trump campaign under a cloud of questions about millions worth of payments he took from oligarchs in Ukraine, swung into action. Manafort arranged to have Calk formally interviewed for the position of Under Secretary of the Army in January 2017 at the Trump transition team’s New York headquarters, according to prosecutors.

Documents presented at Manafort’s trial showed Manafort forwarded Calk’s name to Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, in November 2016, recommending him for a “major appointment.”

Hours later, Kushner fired back a two-word email: “On it!”

Calk never received an administration position.

Trump has repeatedly defended Manafort, calling him a “good man.” Trump’s kind words toward his former campaign manager have fueled speculation he might eventually pardon him. But Manafort has also been charged by state prosecutors in New York for financial crimes related to his mortgage loans. Any state convictions would be beyond Trump’s reach, because presidential pardons don’t apply to state crimes.

Cover: Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump's former campaign chairman, departs Federal District Court, Thursday, Nov. 2, 2017, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)