Banker Who Sought Trump Cabinet Post Convicted of Bribery

A Chicago banker was convicted of federal charges that he sought to trade $16 million in bank loans to former Trump campaign chief Paul Manafort for the chance at a top administration post.

Stephen Calk was found guilty on Tuesday of financial institution bribery and conspiracy over the 2016 and 2017 loans. The founder and longtime chief executive of Federal Savings Bank had hoped that then-President Donald Trump would name him to one of a raft of powerful government posts, including treasury secretary, defense secretary or ambassador to France or the U.K.

Instead Calk faces possible prison time after jurors in Manhattan federal court found that he approved the loans to Manafort in exchange for help in landing a job. The trial, which began June 22, featured the testimony of Skybridge Capital founder and former White House aide Anthony Scaramucci and offered a window into the sometimes chaotic transition that followed Trump’s unexpected 2016 election.

Calk did not respond to questions outside the courthouse after the verdict was delivered.

“We are very disappointed by the verdict and will be pursuing all available legal remedies, including an appeal,” his lawyer, Paul Schoeman, said in an email.

Army Interview

Manafort, who led Trump’s 2016 campaign for about two months, then continued on as an adviser, arranged for Calk to be interviewed at Trump Tower for undersecretary of the Army. The banker wasn’t selected for the post or for any other administration job.

Calk is scheduled to be sentenced on Jan. 10. He faces a maximum of 30 years in prison, though he’s likely to get much less than that.

Prosecutors argued that Calk was “hungry for power” and conspired with Manafort to try to achieve it. According to the government, Calk approved the loans despite Manafort’s poor credit and lack of sufficient collateral.

“Calk was the one with the money,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Monteleoni said in closing arguments on Monday. “What Manafort offered to Calk was the chance to use some of that money to buy power.”

Schoeman argued that the banker believed the loans were sound based on the information Manafort provided and the approvals weren’t linked to Calk’s desire to serve in the Trump administration. That was motivated by Calk’s sense of duty, the lawyer said.

“It’s not about greed for power,” Schoeman told jurors. “It’s about, ‘I would like to serve, as undersecretary of the Army.’”

Though Calk was convicted of conspiring with Manafort, the former Trump campaign chief was not charged in the case and did not appear as either a prosecution or defense witness. Manafort was separately convicted in Virginia federal court in 2018 of fraud and other charges that stemmed in part from this dealings with Federal Savings Bank. Trump pardoned Manafort on all federal charges shortly before leaving office.

Scaramucci worked on the Trump transition team and later spent 11 days as White House communications director. He told jurors that Calk initially sought to be Army secretary but was willing to interview for undersecretary. Scaramucci helped get Calk the interview as a favor to Manafort but said he knew nothing about the loans and that he wouldn’t have helped Calk if he had.

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