A bombshell indictment released Thursday from the Justice Department detailed how banker Stephen Calk tried to use his financial ties to former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort to bribe his way into the Trump administration.
According to the indictment, Calk has been charged with “financial institution bribery” for trying to use his position as the head of The Federal Savings Bank of Chicago, which issued “millions of dollars in high-risk loans” to Manafort, to obtain “a senior position” for himself within the Trump administration.
As the indictment reads, Calk “sought to leverage his control” over Manafort’s loans, totaling $16 million in high-risk loans, in exchange for Manafort’s help in landing Calk either the Treasury Secretary, Defense Secretary, or Secretary of the Army positions. The indictment notes that Calk additionally created a longer wishlist of desired positions, including a number of ambassadorships to places like France, Germany, and the U.K.
While Manafort isn’t mentioned in either the release or the indictment, it’s not difficult to ascertain his role in Calk’s scheme. The indictment notes that Calk’s “borrower” served as campaign chair from June to August 2016 for a winning presidential campaign, and that the borrower was a lobbyist and political consultant throughout.
The indictment details how Calk worked around his own bank’s limits on providing loans to Manafort. After Trump won the election, Calk directed his bank to approve a $9.5 million loan to Manafort, which was soon followed by Calk’s request for an appointment to a senior position in the Trump administration. While discussions about executive appointments continued, Calk further directed his bank to issue an additional $6.5 million loan to Manafort. Despite the fact that the $16 million loan total made Manafort the bank’s single largest individual debtor, Calk nonetheless directed one of his holding companies, which is unnamed in the indictment, to help with providing the loan — a move “never before performed by” Calk’s bank, as the indictment notes.
When the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) questioned Calk about the loans to Manafort, Calk, as the indictment reads, lied about trying to land a position in the Trump administration.
Manafort never managed to convince Trump to appoint Calk to any executive branch positions, but as the indictment notes, Manafort managed to appoint Calk to a Trump campaign economic advisory committee. Calk was also interviewed, thanks to Manafort, for the position of Under Secretary of the Army, although he was not hired for the post.
The indictment also alludes to a number of Trump transition officials, but does not name any. However, as previous emails illustrate, it appears that “Transition Official-1” in the indictment is Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner. On Nov. 30, 2016 — a date that lines up with the indictment — Manafort sent an email to Kushner recommending Calk join the administration. Kushner’s response: “On it!”
“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 Sweeney Jr. said in a release. “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 now faces a maximum of 30 years in prison.