Chicago bank CEO Stephen Calk charged with scheme to join Trump administration

CHICAGO, IL - FEBRUARY 23: A sign hangs above the headquarters of The Federal Savings Bank in the Fulton Market neighborhood on February 23, 2018 in Chicago, Illinois. Special Counsel Robert Mueller claimed the bank made $16 million in personal real estate loans to President Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort. The bank's chairman, Stephen Calk, served on the campaign's economic advisory panel. (Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

NEW YORK — The founder of Federal Savings Bank of Chicago has been charged with financial institution bribery for allegedly orchestrating high risk loans to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, with the hope of securing a top job in the administration.

Federal prosecutors in New York say Stephen Calk engaged in a “corrupt scheme to exploit his position” by side-stepping bank procedures to loan Manafort $16 million. Prosecutors say as the loans were taking place, Calk and Manafort repeatedly discussed high level appointments including to the president’s cabinet or to the post of secretary of the United States Army.

A federal indictment unsealed Thursday morning said days after the first loan was approved in the summer of 2016, the indictment quotes an August 2016 email between Manafort and Calk in which the president’s campaign chairman wrote “Per our conversation, I want to add you to the National Economic Advisory Committee for [candidate Trump]. Is that something you would be able to do?” Calk responded, “I am happy and willing to serve.” A few days later, the Trump campaign announced Calk was appointed to Mr. Trump’s newly created Economic Advisory Council.

Even after Manafort left the Trump campaign, he continued to borrow money from Federal Savings Bank and Calk continued to discuss an appointment to the Trump administration, prosecutors say. “I look to your cleverness on how to manage the underwriting,” Manafort wrote to Calk in an Oct. 7, 2016 email.

As Donald Trump was elected president, and despite Manafort’s ouster from the administration, prosecutors say Calk continued to override bank protocols to loan him money. On Nov. 14, 2016, prosecutors say Calked emailed Manafort suggesting he could be appointed to any one of 10 top administration positions including defense secretary, commerce secretary. He also suggested 19 ambassadorships from the United Kingdom to Italy.

“Are you aiding in the transition in any type of formal capacity,” the indictment says Calk asked Manafort in an email. “Total background but involved directly,” was Manafort’s response. “Awesome,” wrote Calk.

The next day Calk sent Manafort a resume and email document titled “Stephen M. Calk – Candidate for Secretary of the Army.” One day later, prosecutors say Calk’s bank formally closed on a $9.5 million loan to Manafort. The indictment says Calk formally interviewed for the position of undersecretary of the Army in January 2017. He never joined the Trump administration. Federal Savings Bank no longer lists Stephen Calk as the bank’s founder or chairman on its website.

United States House Committee on Oversight and Reform chairman Elijah Cummings issued a statement that said:

Today’s indictment of Stephen Calk for pushing through a $16 million ‘high-risk’ loan for President Trump’s campaign manager, Paul Manafort, in exchange for being considered for top Administration posts by the President’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, is the latest example of the President’s inner circle trying to make backroom deals to enrich themselves instead of working on behalf of the American people.  Today’s indictment is especially problematic because the White House and Trump transition team have been refusing for months to turn over a single piece of paper in response to my request for information about this scandal.  It is time for the White House to stop this unprecedented cover-up and start producing the documents we need to do our job.

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