A millionaire bank CEO was charged with giving a $16 million sweetheart deal to President Trump’s disgraced campaign manager Paul Manafort in hopes of landing a high-level cabinet post, authorities said.
Stephen Calk personally approved the risky loan at a low interest rate to Manafort in hopes of being named Treasury Secretary, Secretary of the Army or some other plum position in the Trump administration, according to court papers unsealed in Manhattan federal court.
"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,” FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said.
Calk, who ran the Chicago-based Federal Savings Bank, was hit with a single count of bribery and faces up to 30 years in prison.
He wore a blue blazer and pleaded not guilty during a brief hearing in lower Manhattan court.
The banker raced through a scrum of reporters to a waiting car after he was allowed to remain free on $5 million bond and ordered to surrender his passport and gun.
Jeremy Margolis, Calk’s lawyer, called the charges “a travesty.”
“The loans to Mr. Manafort were good loans,” said Daniel Stein, another defense lawyer, claiming they were “over collateralized.” “These loans were simply not a bribe for anything.”
The bank claimed it was also victim of the scheme and said Calk is on leave from the institution. His brother, John, is now the CEO.
Manafort, who led Trump’s campaign in summer 2016, was not named in the indictment but details of the loan scheme were discussed extensively during his federal trial. The wheeler-dealer is serving a 7-1/2 year sentence for fraud related to his dealings with pro-Russian figures in Ukraine.
Manafort was one of the first Trump officials to be targeted by special counsel Robert Mueller. The Manafort probe led to more than a dozen criminal referrals and Calk’s case is one of those.
Prosecutors say Calk had the chutzpah to hand Manafort with a wish list of primo gigs, including the Treasury Secretary, Army post and 19 ambassadorships.
Stein said the banker, a 16-year Army veteran, simply “felt the call to serve his country again.”
Manafort recommended Calk as a possible Army secretary to Trump’s transition team. He didn’t land that job but did win a formal interview for the position of under secretary of the Army in January 2017.
Calk’s lawyer trashed the claim that Manafort had anything to do with Calk’s search for a job in the Trump administration, noting that he didn’t get any post.
Trump has defended Manafort because he refused to flip and offer damaging information about the president despite signing a cooperation agreement with prosecutors. Mueller’s team later accused Manafort of welching on that deal.