NEW YORK – A Chicago bank owner traded $ 16 million in loans to ex-campaign manager for ex-President Donald Trump in a bid to secure a prestigious post in the Trump administration, a a prosecutor told jurors on Wednesday in an opening statement before a defense attorney assured them the banker did not commit any crime.
“It is about greed, but not greed for money. Greed for power, for prestige, for importance, ”said Assistant US Attorney Alexandra Rothman shortly before appointing Stephen Calk to a Manhattan jury and describing his relationship with Paul Manafort, who led Trump’s presidential campaign for several months five years ago.
She recalled on election night 2016, claiming that Calk, the former chief executive of the Federal Savings Bank, sent a message to Manafort after it became clear that Trump had won the election to pledge a loan of $ 9.5 million real estate construction that seemed stuck, if not dead, would be “packed the next day.”
Within weeks, Calk was interviewing at Trump Tower for an administration job and eagerly pushing an additional $ 6.5 million to Manafort so he could finish building a condominium in Brooklyn and avoid foreclosure. Rothman said.
Manafort, the prosecutor said, was viewed by Calk as “his personal piggy bank in an attempt to buy himself prestige and power.”
Yet, Rothman said, Calk never got a job in the Trump administration that he put on his wishlist, including that of head of the Treasury, Commerce or Defense departments. And he also didn’t get what he claimed to be his “No.” 1 desire ”, to be secretary of the army, she added.
He gained media exposure, however, through his volunteer role on the Trump Campaign’s Economic Advisory Board, where he worked with other high-profile business leaders advising Trump, she said.
Manafort was ousted in 2016 from Trump’s campaign over his ties to Ukraine. Special Advocate Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russia led to his criminal conviction and more than seven years in prison for financial crimes related to his work as a political consultant in Ukraine. In December, Trump pardoned him.
Paul Schoeman, Calk’s attorney, urged jurors to ask themselves throughout the trial whether his client thought something he was doing was wrong.
“The answer will be no,” he said.
Schoeman said Manafort’s loans were unanimously approved by the bank’s loan committee and underwriters on terms that gave Manafort no breaks on interest rates or fees and demanded more. collateral than the value of the loans.
The defense attorney said Calk consulted Manafort on how to get a post in the administration, just as he did with various military generals and other prominent people who he said might have some great advice.
He said Calk “didn’t think he was doing anything corrupt because he thought he was getting great loans for his bank.”
At the time, Manafort seemed wealthy and prosperous and “a rock star in the world of politics” who had advised former presidents as far away as Ronald Reagan and Gerald Ford, Schoeman said.
The lawyer said Calk was unaware that Manafort was giving the bank false financial statements and “was not as wealthy or successful as he claimed”.
Schoeman said Calk was “excited” when Trump won the presidency and would have been “thrilled and honored” to land a job that would allow him to support the troops because he had long run his bank in a way that helped them. veterans after his honorary release as a captain with the Army Reserve.
The lawyer also warned jurors that the case was not about “partisan politics.”
“Donald Trump’s name will appear during this trial. Some people like it. Some people don’t. But don’t let him influence you in this case, ”he said. “Mr. Calk did not commit a crime. He did not make a corrupt deal. He is not guilty of these charges.