Chicago banker Stephen Calk: Enters not guilty plea to charge he pushed $16 million loan for Manafort in bid for top Trump job

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WASHINGTON – Chicago banker Stephen Calk failed to leverage $16 million in risky loans to Paul Manafort, President Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, into a top administration job; caused his bank to lose millions on the deal and on Thursday faced criminal charges for what federal prosecutors said was a bribery scheme.

FBI Assistant Director William Sweeney Jr., rubbed it in when he said in a statement that Calk’s “attempt at petitioning for political favors was unsuccessful in more ways that one – he didn’t get the job he wanted and he compromised the one he had.”

Calk is the founder of The Federal Savings Bank of Chicago, 300 N. Elizabeth, and until the beginning of this month, was the CEO.

The bank said in a statement Calk, “has been on a complete leave of absence and has no control over or involvement with the bank.” Federal prosecutors said the bank had to write off $12 million of the loan as a loss.

Calk’s case, in the Southern District of New York, is another outgrowth of the Special Counsel Robert Mueller Russia probe that ensnared Manafort, now in prison on a variety of corruption charges.

Calk, who moved from Kenilworth to Northfield since last year, turned himself in on Thursday morning and in the afternoon appeared before a federal judge in a Manhattan courtroom to plead not guilty.

His bond was set at $5 million; Calk was released on his signature without having to post cash, his spokesmen Dennis Culloton and Natalie Bauer Luce told the Sun-Times.

The charges against Calk were contained in an indictment unsealed on Thursday. He is facing one count of financial institution bribery.

Calk’s attorney, Jeremy Margolis, a former federal prosecutor and former Illinois State Police Director said in a statement, “Those loans simply were not a bribe for anything,” adding, “the charges brought today are a travesty.”

Calk had been in the Army individual ready reserves. After the election, Margolis said, Calk sought Trump administration appointments because he “felt the call to serve.”

Before connecting with Manafort, Calk had no profile in Illinois or national politics.

The indictment said “Calk offered to, and did, cause the bank and holding company to extend $16 million in loans to (Manafort) in exchange for the borrower’s requested assistance in obtaining various positions for Calk, including secretary of the Treasury, Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the Army.”

Nothing in the indictment should have surprised Calk.

Details about the dicey loans and Calk’s hunger to land a job in the Trump administration were disclosed in Manafort’s own trial in a federal courtroom in Alexandria, Virginia, last August.

At one point in the trial, a federal prosecutor told Manafort’s judge Calk could face “criminal liability.”

The Manafort trial laid out how Calk was angling for an appointment at the same time Manafort needed the loans.

Calk in an e-mail to Manafort listed “in rank order” the 10 cabinet or sub-cabinet posts he wanted and the 19 nations he was seeking to serve as ambassador.

Calk’s preferences were, in this order, according to the e-mail: Treasury, Commerce, Defense, HUD and Army Secretary.

The ambassadorships Calk wanted were the plums usually given (and this holds for GOP and Democratic presidents) to major campaign donors and fundraisers. Calk, in his ambassador rankings picked United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy at the top of his list.

Instead of raising money – or donating his own – Calk is accused of using assets from The Federal Savings Bank and its holding company – to try to land a top Trump administration job. Calk owned 67 percent of the company at the time.

Calk was never called to testify in Manafort’s trial, but other government witnesses and documents described – in details that mirror the indictment – how Calk pushed through loans for Manafort.

Manafort and Calk first discussed potential loans in April 2016, shortly after Manafort joined the Trump campaign. Trump becoming president was seen then as a longshot.

In August, 2016, with loans pending, Manafort got Calk appointed to a high level Trump National Economic Advisory Committee. Though Manafort resigned from the Trump campaign on Aug. 19, 2016, he retained an “informal role.”

The indictment states that Calk was reluctant to approve a Manafort loan for $9.5 million until Trump won the election. Evidence at Manafort’s trial shows that a $9.5 million loan closed on Nov. 16, 2016 – the day after Calk sent Manafort an e-mail with the subject line “Stephen M. Calk –Candidate for SEC ARMY.” Manafort closed on a $6.5 million loan on Jan. 4, 2017.

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