In the days after Donald Trump was elected president, a Chicago banker and campaign economic adviser named Stephen Calk called U.S. Army personnel to discuss the confirmation process for a high-level position, according to Defense Department documents obtained by congressional Democrats.
About that time, Calk's bank, Federal Savings Bank in Chicago, provided the first of several mortgage loans, totaling $16 million, to former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort. Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether the loans were made as part of a "quid-pro-quo arrangement to secure Mr. Calk a job in Mr. Trump's administration," specifically the post of Army Secretary, The Wall Street Journal reported in February.
In a letter sent to Calk on Thursday, Representatives Elijah Cummings and Stephen Lynch sought records related to the banker's communications with Manafort and the Trump campaign and about his bank's loans to Manafort. Cummings is the ranking Democrat on the Oversight Committee, and Lynch is the ranking member of the subcommittee on national security.
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"We now request information directly from you about why you were seeking that information and whether your actions were related to a quid pro quo with President Trump's campaign chairman, Paul Manafort," the letter says.
Among other items, the lawmakers are seeking all communications between Calk and Manafort, Trump campaign and transition officials, and the Defense Department. They are also requesting all documents and attachments related to the loans.
In his letter to Calk, Cummings wrote that he had been told by the Defense Department that the Army's chief of staff "had the opportunity to engage Mr. Calk on Nov. 16, 2016, when he provided remarks" at a Chicago business event. The department also reported that Army administrative personnel recalled receiving a telephone call from Calk sometime in November 2016 "regarding the confirmation process in general."
Jason Maloni, a Manafort spokesman, declined to comment. Manafort has previously denied any wrongdoing over the loans, and the bank has denied that there was a quid pro quo. Calk didn't immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
Manafort is facing money laundering as well as tax and bank fraud charges from Mueller's office related to his consulting work in Ukraine and his bank loans in the U.S., including those from the Federal Savings Bank. He resigned as Trump's campaign chairman in August 2016 amid scrutiny of his work for pro-Russia oligarchs in Ukraine.
Calk, a former Army helicopter pilot whose bank caters to veterans, was a surprise choice for the Trump campaign's economic advisory panel that counted heavy hitters like the real estate titan Howard Lorber and the hedge-fund investor John Paulson as members. Calk's bank had a business partnership with Douglas Elliman Real Estate, where Lorber is chairman.
The Federal Savings Bank provided a $9.5 million loan on Nov. 16, 2016, to Summerbreeze LLC, a shell company associated with Manafort that was created the day his resignation from the Trump campaign was announced. The bank made $6.5 million more in loans to Manafort in his wife the following January.
It's unclear whether Calk was ever considered for a top Pentagon post.