How the CEO of a small Chicago bank landed a spot on Donald Trump’s economic advisory council during the 2016 campaign has long been a mystery.
Federal prosecutors provided new clues in a court filing Friday. The document suggests that Stephen Calk, the chief executive of The Federal Savings Bank, was named to Trump’s 13-member team as payback for providing a $9.5 million mortgage to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort.
Manafort is scheduled to go on trial later this month in Virginia on charges that include bank fraud. He is accused of lying on applications for two mortgages totaling $16 million. The indictment does not name The Federal Savings Bank as the lender that got defrauded, but its description of a bank that it calls “Lender D” fits with publicly available information about two mortgage loans that Federal Savings made to Manafort.
In newly filed court papers, Assistant U.S. Attorney Uzo Asonye wrote that various employees of the bank identified serious issues with Manafort’s first loan application. It goes on to state that a senior executive at the bank interceded and approved the loan.
“During the loan application process, the senior executive expressed interest in working on the Trump campaign, told the defendant about his interest, and eventually secured a position advising the Trump campaign,” Asonye wrote.
Calk was named to Trump’s 13-member economic advisory team in August 2016. Later, he reportedly sought to be named Army secretary. A letter that the Department of Defense sent to House Democrats earlier this year revealed that Calk had two contacts with Army officials in November 2016.
“The senior executive later expressed an interest in serving in the administration of President Trump, but did not secure such a position,” Asonye wrote in the court papers that were filed Friday.
Prosecutors revealed the new information about Calk to support their argument that Manafort’s role on the Trump campaign is relevant to the bank fraud charges he faces. Asonye wrote that the loans were approved, in spite of the deficiencies that were identified by bank employees, because the senior executive at the bank “factored in his own personal ambition.”
An email to a bank spokeswoman Friday evening was not immediately answered. Federal Savings has denied that Manafort received loans from the $265 million-asset bank in exchange for promises of a job in the Trump administration.
In an April 26 letter to two Democratic congressmen, Ryan Murphy, the bank’s compliance manager, depicted the bank as a victim of what he called Manafort’s fraudulent conduct. He also stated that The Federal Savings Bank had fully cooperated with the special counsel’s office. Calk has not been accused of wrongdoing.
During Calk’s long career in the mortgage business, he contributed money to a handful of campaigns, but he was never a significant political player before being named to Trump’s economic advisory council.
Many of the other people on Trump’s team were far more prominent. They included: the banker and film producer Steven Mnuchin, who would later become Treasury secretary; the economist Peter Navarro, who advises the president on trade issues; the hedge fund billionaire John Paulson; and Colony Capital founder Tom Barrack.
After being named to Trump’s economic advisory team, Calk was interviewed on MSNBC, where he said that he had met several times with then-candidate Trump.
“I can tell you about the struggles that Americans are having with home ownership,” Calk said during the Aug. 5, 2016, interview. “I plan on spending a lot of time advising Mr. Trump on that, as well as the challenges in community banking.”