Stephen Calk, Manafort's Chicago banker, optimistic on first day of bribery trial

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Ross Weidner WLS logo
Wednesday, June 23, 2021
Manafort's Chicago banker optimistic on first day of bribery trial
"Just want the truth," former Chicago banker Stephen Calk said as he left court following the first day of jury selection.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A top Chicago banking figure accused of approving multi-million dollar loans to Donald Trump's 2016 campaign chief in exchange for a big White House appointment told the ABC7 I-Team on Tuesday that his federal bribery trial is a venue to clear the air.

"Just want the truth," said Stephen Calk, founder and former CEO of The Federal Savings Bank headquartered in Chicago's Fulton Market, as he left court following the first day of jury selection.

Calk is being prosecuted in New York on charges he greased the way for his bank to hand $16 million in loans to ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Prosecutors contend Calk was bidding for one of several government positions in an eventual Trump administration, from various cabinet positions to ambassadorships. Manafort had placed Calk on then-candidate Trump's economic advisory committee. Investigators say Manafort recommended Calk to become secretary of the Army in the alleged loans-for-job scheme. Other positions Calk wanted included treasury secretary, defense secretary and commerce secretary but the Chicago executive ended up with nothing when Trump was elected, except eventual criminal charges.

RELATED | Battle of emails to play out in bribe trial of Chicago banker Stephen Calk

The bribery case grew from an investigation of Russian influence on the 2016 election conducted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Calk has steadfastly denied the charges of a quid pro quo with Manafort and contends that $16 million in loans to the campaign boss were solid. Among those leading Calk's legal team is Jeremy Margolis, a former assistant U.S. Attorney in Chicago and ex-director of the Illinois State Police.

Manafort, convicted in separate and unrelated financial crime cases, was pardoned by President Trump and is not charged with Calk.

In Manhattan federal court on Tuesday, jury selection began and a panel is expected to be seated Wednesday when opening statements could begin as well as the first witnesses. When Calk was asked how he was feeling after day one of his trial and how it went, he told the I-Team "very well, very well."

As the I-Team reported last month, the case shapes up as a battle of emails, with both sides planning to display memos from top Trump aides including Manafort, Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, Hope Hicks, Steven Mnuchin and Anthony Scaramucci, who is expected to be an in-person witness.

Scaramucci, known as "The Mooch," was a notorious short-timer in the administration when he worked as communications director for 11 days. According to a federal court filing by prosecutors, Scaramucci would testify "Manafort asked him to get Calk an interview for the position of Secretary of the Army, and that he complied with the request despite believing that Calk was not qualified."