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Bank CEO gave Paul Manafort risky loans in bid for Trump administration job, feds say

Bank CEO gave Paul Manafort risky loans in bid for Trump administration job, feds say
Paul Manafort, President Trump's former campaign chairman, shown in 2018. Federal prosecutors have charged banker Stephen M. Calk, with trying to buy himself a role in the Trump administration by making risky loans Manafort. (Jose Luis Magana / Associated Press)

A banker who prosecutors say tried to buy himself a senior post in President Trump’s administration by making risky loans to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was arrested Thursday on a charge of financial institution bribery.

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Stephen M. Calk, 54, was scheduled to appear in Manhattan federal court in the afternoon. A message left with his attorney for comment was not immediately returned.

Authorities said Calk committed the crime while serving as chief executive of the Federal Savings Bank based in Chicago.

Federal prosecutors described the charge in a release, saying Calk abused his bank position by approving $16 million in high-risk loans that were ultimately downgraded.

William F. Sweeney Jr., head of the New York FBI office, said Calk “went to great lengths to avoid banking violations in an attempt to secure a senior position in a presidential administration.”

“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,” Sweeney added.

Manafort lobbied Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, to consider Calk for the job of secretary of the Army, according to emails from the weeks leading up to the 2016 election that were shown to jurors at Manafort’s tax evasion and bank fraud trial last year.

Prosecutors said that while Manafort’s loans were pending approval, Calk gave Manafort a ranked list of government positions he wanted, starting with secretary of the Treasury, followed by deputy secretary of the Treasury, secretary of Commerce and secretary of Defense, as well as 19 ambassadorships similarly ranked and starting with the United Kingdom, France, Germany and Italy.

According to trial evidence, Manafort passed along Calk’s resume to Kushner in a Nov. 30, 2016, email, along with two other names of people he said “should be a part of the Trump administration.”

Manafort wrote that the individuals would be “totally reliable and responsive to the Trump White House.”

He also said Calk was “strong in defense issues, management and finance.”

Kushner responded, “On it!”

Calk was formally interviewed for the position of undersecretary of the Army in early January 2017 at the Trump presidential transition team’s Manhattan offices, prosecutors noted.

Calk never got an administration post, though he did approve Manafort’s loans.

Manafort is serving a 7½-year sentence on charges he misled the government over his foreign lobbying work and encouraged witnesses to lie on his behalf. He also faces an indictment in New York charging him with state crimes, including a residential mortgage fraud scheme.

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