Trial of Stephen Calk, Manafort's banker, scheduled for September

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Stephen Calk, the Chicago banker charged in connection with multimillion-dollar loans to President Trump’s former campaign chair, is tentatively scheduled to go on trial in September.

Calk, who served as CEO of the Federal Savings Bank until last May, faces a bribery charge over the bank’s loans to Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chief who is serving a seven and a half year prison sentence.

Prosecutors allege that Calk approved mortgage loans totaling $16 million in late 2016 and early 2017 in exchange for a potential job in the Trump administration. Calk has pleaded not guilty.

Stephen Calk has pleaded not guilty to allegations that he approved mortgage loans totaling $16 million to President Trump's former campaign chairman in exchange for a potential job in the administration.
Stephen Calk has pleaded not guilty to allegations that he approved mortgage loans totaling $16 million to President Trump's former campaign chairman in exchange for a potential job in the administration.

During a pretrial hearing Thursday, U.S. District Judge Lorna Schofield established a Sept. 3 trial date. But she acknowledged that the trial, which is scheduled to be held in Manhattan and is expected to last a month, could be delayed depending on the status of the coronavirus pandemic. With shelter-in-place orders still in effect, the hearing Thursday was held over the phone.

The judge has yet to decide whether evidence that prosecutors obtained from Calk’s phone will be allowed into the trial.

Calk attorney Paul Schoeman argued during Thursday’s hearing that the evidence should be excluded because the U.S. government omitted critical facts from an affidavit that it submitted in order to get a search warrant.

“They marshalled the facts that helped to support a theory, but omitted the key facts that would show that what they were arguing was misleading,” Schoeman said.

More specifically, the affidavit did not include certain information about the terms of the loans that Federal Savings made to Manafort, including the fact that the bank had secured the loans with collateral worth $25 million.

Contrary to prosecutors’ assertions, the loans were sound, Schoeman argued. He pointed to both the real estate that served as collateral and the high interest rate that the bank charged Manafort.

And he asserted that the $605 million-asset bank would have recovered the collateral if it had not been seized by the U.S. government as part of its prosecution of Manafort.

“So these would have been extremely profitable loans for the bank,” Schoeman said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Paul Monteleoni rejected the argument that the loans were sound. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency classified them as substandard, he said. And banks are supposed to make loans based on the belief that they will be repaid, rather than on the expectation of an eventual foreclosure, he added.

Monteleoni also disputed the contention that prosecutors intentionally painted a misleading picture in their application for the search warrant by omitting information that cut against the government’s theory. “We were affirmatively including factors that cut in the other direction,” he said.

Calk served on a Trump campaign advisory committee in 2016 and, according to prosecutors, was interviewed in January 2017 for undersecretary of the Army. He ultimately never got a job in the Trump administration.

Manafort was convicted of bank and tax fraud in 2018. At his trial, prosecutors laid out evidence that Federal Savings approved the loans because of Calk’s own political ambitions.

Calk faces one count of financial institution bribery, which carries a statutory maximum of 30 years in prison.

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