Manafort turned to Kushner in bid to get banker a Trump job
Paul Manafort turned to Jared Kushner for help in an attempt to secure a Trump administration job for a Chicago banker at the center of Manafort’s fraud trial.
Manafort, Donald Trump’s campaign manager in 2016, got a quick response.
“On it!’’ Kushner replied on Nov. 30, 2016, according to an email submitted by prosecutors into evidence Monday at Manafort’s trial on bank and tax-fraud charges.
The email shows how, months after Manafort was deposed as campaign manager, he reached into Trump’s inner circle for help, without success. It also provides a window into how a disorganized, inexperienced campaign team was inundated with requests from supporters seeking coveted posts in the new administration.
The banker who sought the job in Trump’s administration was Stephen Calk, chief executive officer of the Federal Savings Bank, which loaned $16 million to Manafort. Prosecutors say those loans, made after the election, were part of a corrupt scheme to help Manafort pull cash out of his properties.
Calk pitched himself to Manafort as a Trump loyalist who could run the U.S. Army or serve in a senior position in the Treasury or Commerce departments. He turned to Manafort, who then asked for help from Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law. Kushner became a central figure in the transition and later in the White House. Calk didn’t get a government job.
A spokesman for Kushner’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, didn’t immediately comment on the emails.
Calk wrote a memo to Manafort the week after the election. It was titled: “Qualification Memorandum on Behalf of Stephen M. Calk Articulating His Qualifications to Serve as the 22nd Secretary of the Army.”
“Mr. Calk willingly risked his national professional and personal reputation as an active, vocal, early supporter of President-Elect Trump,” he wrote in the memo.
Prosecutors at Manafort’s trial say Calk approved loans after the bank received documents that falsely overstated Manafort’s financial strength. At a sidebar conference last week, a prosecutor said he considered Calk an unindicted co-conspirator and said he “has other criminal liability aside from this bank fraud.’’
Defense attorney Richard Westling said at the sidebar discussion that prosecutors have no evidence that Calk knew Manafort submitted false evidence to the bank. Calk hasn’t been charged with any crime. He didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday night.
In an interview Sunday with Bloomberg News, Calk said, “We’re fully cooperating with the Special Counsel’s office, and in fairness to both sides we cannot make any comment at this time.’’
Manafort wrote to Kushner three weeks after the election urging that the incoming administration find a “major appointment’’ for Calk and two other people, according to emails put in evidence by prosecutors.
“Calk was an active supporter of campaign (sic) since April,’’ Manafort wrote. He noted that Calk was an economic adviser to the campaign and had conducted dozens of television interviews on Trump’s behalf. “His background is strong in defense issues, management and finance. His preference is Secretary of the Army.’’
Manafort suggested alternative positions in the Treasury Department as undersecretary for either domestic or international affairs, or in the Commerce Department as a deputy secretary.
Manafort’s lawyers didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the email.
Jurors at Manafort’s trial have also heard testimony from witnesses that Calk wanted a job as either the treasury or housing secretary.
Calk’s interest in a Trump administration job drew the attention of Congress in April, when Reps. 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.
Prosecutors for Special Counsel Robert Mueller entered the email chain into evidence on Monday just before finishing their presentation of evidence at Manafort’s trial. The email was among 32 exhibits that U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III admitted at the end of the prosecution’s case.
“You are becoming a very good friend and I look forward to building our relationship into both a deeper business and personal one,” Manafort wrote in an email to Calk on Oct. 8, 2016.
Manafort, 69, will tell the judge Tuesday whether he’ll present a defense before closing arguments and jury deliberations. During their deliberations the jurors may consider hundreds of exhibits entered into evidence.