Manafort witness says bank CEO coveted Cabinet job, pushed to approve loans

By Nathan Layne and Karen Freifeld

(Reuters) – A Chicago bank chief pushed for $16 million in loans to Paul Manafort in return for help landing a post in the incoming Trump administration, a witness testified in the former Trump campaign chairman’s federal fraud trial testified on Friday.

Dennis Raico, a former Federal Savings Bank executive testifying under immunity, said the bank’s chief executive, Stephen Calk, was directly involved in granting the loans.

Manafort later asked the incoming administration to consider tapping Calk for secretary of the Army, according to testimony earlier in the week. Calk did not get the job. Raico said Calk had also asked about becoming Treasury secretary.

Raico was one of several witnesses scheduled for Friday as the trial resumed after a recess that lasted into the midafternoon. He and James Brennan, a Federal Savings executive, were both granted immunity against prosecution by Special Counsel Robert Mueller before testifying.

The witnesses were the latest in the government’s case against Manafort, who faces 18 felony counts of bank fraud, tax fraud and failing to disclose about 30 foreign bank accounts.

Four of Manafort’s felony counts involve the $16 million of loans prosecutors say were extended by Federal Savings in late 2016 and early 2017.

The bank and Calk, who was named an economic adviser to the Trump campaign in August 2016, did not respond to requests for comment.

On Friday, Raico testified that Calk asked him to call Manafort shortly after the Nov. 8, 2016, election, to see if he could be a candidate for the Treasury post.

Raico also described a July 27, 2016, meeting in which Calk made it clear that he would be interested in serving with Trump. The loan was approved the next day.

When asked by prosecutor Greg Andres whether he had ever seen a loan approved in that short amount of time, Raico replied, “No.”

Rick Gates, the deputy chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee, who also worked on his campaign, had testified earlier this week that Manafort had told him to ask about making Calk secretary of the Army.

Gates was indicted along with Manafort, but pleaded guilty and has been cooperating with Mueller’s investigation. In a filing on Friday, Mueller said Gates is continuing to cooperate with the investigation following his testimony this week.

Andres had said in court that he planned to call the prosecution’s final four witnesses, three of them current or former employees of Federal Savings, on Friday.

But Friday’s lengthy morning recess might delay the prosecution’s plans to wrap up its case by the end of the week, as it had expected earlier.

T.S. Ellis, the federal judge overseeing the case, said the recess could not be avoided and was due to unrelated matters. He reminded jurors on Friday to “keep an open mind,” and said that Manafort is presumed innocent. He gave them explicit instructions to not talk to one another or others about the case.

Andrew Chojnowski, whose LinkedIn profile describes him as chief operating officer of home lending at Federal, is also on the witness list.

In addition, prosecutors are expected to call Irfan Kirimca, senior director of ticket operations at the Yankees, to testify about payments for Manafort’s season tickets for the baseball team.

On the stand this week, Gates said Manafort asked if he would “do him a favor” and sign a letter that attributed the cost of the tickets to him. The box seats cost between $210,000 to $225,000 a year, Gates said.

Manafort was applying for loans at the time. Witnesses have testified that he tried to represent lower debt and higher income in order to get loans.

(This version of the story has been refiled to correct spelling of executive’s surname to “Calk” instead of “Falk” in eighth paragraph)

(Reporting by Nathan Layne and Karen Freifeld in Alexandria, Virginia; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Jonathan Oatis)


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