The wide-ranging federal criminal case against former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort has produced another formally charged criminal. This week, authorities unsealed a criminal charge of bribery against Steve Calk, who as Federal Savings Bank CEO is alleged to have granted Manafort millions in loans in the hopes of getting a job in the Trump administration.
Manafort actively participated in the scheme, even after he’d left the campaign manager job when in late 2016 after Trump won the presidential election, he told a transition team official that “we need to discuss” Calk for the position of Secretary of the Army. Previously in 2016, Manafort and Calk had discussed the banker possibly getting that and other jobs including Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and Treasury Secretary in a potential Trump administration.
Under Calk’s leadership, following his meeting with Manafort about these potential positions, Chicago’s Federal Savings Bank issued a full $16 million loans to the now disgraced political operative. A $9.5 million cash-out refinancing that was secured by properties in New York and Virginia came on November 16, 2016 — after Trump’s election victory — and a $6.5 million construction loan secured by a separate property in Brooklyn dropped for Manafort on January 4, 2017, as Trump’s inauguration approached.
Allegations have circulated for some time that the loans were part of a corrupt — and illegal — plot. At his first and only trial for financial crimes last year, prosecutors termed Calk a co-conspirator in Manafort’s own schemes, which involved laundering millions that he garnered for work in Ukraine for pro-Russia interests. At the time, prosecutor Greg Andres told Judge T.S. Ellis that “one of the bank’s loans to Manafort did not go through the bank’s normal process because Calk was expediting it, notwithstanding certain red flags.” He also asserted that Calk had other criminal liability besides the case at hand.
Calk never actually got any sort of job in the Trump administration, despite his efforts, although he did get named to an advisory position with the Trump campaign. Still, the Manafort’s case’s impact is still reverberating — he was a major force behind then-presidential candidate Donald Trump settling on then-Indiana Governor Mike Pence as his running mate. Pence, of course, still serves as vice president and would take over as commander-in-chief if Trump was impeached, although that’s unlikely to happen considering the U.S. Senate’s continued Republican majority.
Manafort is currently serving a seven-and-a-half year jail sentence for crimes including his financial fraud and covertly working as a lobbyist for foreign interests in the United States, which he pleaded guilty to “conspiracy to defraud the United States” over. He’s not the only Trump associate to have engaged in similar behavior — former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn did the same on behalf of the Turkish government, although he cut a deal with prosecutors and in exchange for his cooperation has only pleaded guilty to lying to authorities. His sentencing is still in the future.
The continually expanding shock waves essentially from the Russia scandal highlight how much of a lie Trump’s claim that it’s all just a witch hunt really is. Still, he’s sticking to the line all the same to the point of calling an angry, impromptu press conference this week to rage at reporters while standing in front of a placard highlighting the supposed high cost of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe — and ignoring the fact that it might have actually made a profit considering Manafort’s asset forfeitures. Besides, Trump has cost the government multiple times the cost of the Mueller probe via his incessant golf.
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