Manafort’s Banker Was ‘Greedy’ for Power, Prosecutor Says
(Bloomberg) -- A Chicago banker charged with pushing through $16 million in sketchy loans to Donald Trump’s former campaign chief Paul Manafort did it because he was greedy for prestige and power, not for money, a prosecutor told jurors at the start of a criminal bribery trial in Manhattan.
Stephen Calk “wanted a powerful government title and gave out millions of dollars in bank loans to try and get it,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Alexandra Rothman said in her opening statement.
The government claims Calk used the loans to Manafort as a bribe for help in landing a spot as an adviser on Trump’s presidential campaign and, later, for a top job in the Trump administration. Calk told Manafort he would be interested in one of a number of senior government jobs, including Secretary of the Treasury, Commerce or Defense. He also said he’d be interested in an ambassadorship to one of 19 countries, led by the U.K. and France.
Calk, the founder and longtime chief executive of Federal Savings Bank, failed to win a post in the Trump administration. He did get an interview, at Trump Tower, for the job of undersecretary of the Army with Manafort’s backing, but wasn’t selected.
Calk’s lawyer, Paul Schoeman, blamed Manafort for lying to the bank about his finances, to make it more likely he would get the money. And he said a salesman who brokered the loan cast Manafort in a positive light, hoping for a commission on the deal.
“This is not a sweetheart deal,” Schoeman said. “He loved these loans. He thought they were good for his bank based on what he was told and what he knew.”
Schoeman told jurors that Trump’s name will come up frequently during the trial.
“Some people like him, some people don’t,” he said. “Don’t let that influence you in this case.”
The first witness against Calk was Blake Paulson, a top official at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, who testified about conflict of interest rules for bankers. He also told jurors of a meeting he had with Calk and others from Federal Savings Bank in July 2018, in the wake of media reports claiming the banker had made loans to Manafort in hopes of getting a high-level government job.
“He strongly denied wanting a position in the government” in the meeting, Paulson said.
Among the witnesses set to testify against Calk are Anthony Scaramucci, the Skybridge Capital founder who spent 11 days as White House communications director, before being fired after making a profanity-laced phone call trashing others in the White House to a reporter for The New Yorker. Scaramucci is expected to testify about Manafort’s efforts to promote Calk.
The case is U.S. v. Calk, 19-cr-00366, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
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