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Manafort trial: Banker testifies about former Trump campaign manger's loans after mystery over Judge TS Ellis' hours-long recess

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Joe Sommerlad
Friday 10 August 2018 23:31 BST
Ex-Trump Campaign Chair Manafort's Court Arrival

The chief executive officer of a small Chicago bank that approved $16 million in loans to former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort was seeking a post in the new administration, a witness has testified

Dennis Raico, a former Federal Savings Bank executive testifying under immunity, said the bank's chief executive, Stephen Calk, expressed interest in such posts as Treasury secretary or Housing and Urban Development secretary.

Mr Manafort later asked the incoming administration to consider tapping Mr Calk for secretary of the Army, according to testimony earlier in the week. Mr Calk, a retired Army officer and helicopter pilot, did not get the job.

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

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

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Four of Mr Manafort's felony counts involve the $16 million of loans prosecutors have said were extended by Federal Savings in late 2016 and early 2017. Mr Manafort denies all the charges against him.

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

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

Associated Press


Welcome to The Independent's live blog on the unfolding trial of Paul Manafort. 

Joe Sommerlad10 August 2018 10:18

Yesterday at the courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia, the prosecution turned their attentions to bank fraud allegations against Mr Manafort after spending several days focusing on the tax evasion accusations leveled against him, all of which the defendant denies.

This followed the brutal interrogation of former aide Rick Gates on Wednesday, when the government's star witness was grilled on his "secret life" and accused of telling "so many lies that you can't remember".

Joe Sommerlad10 August 2018 10:36

Citizens Bank employee Melinda James, a mortgage loan assistant, told jurors how she discovered discrepancies in the information Mr Manafort had put on his $3.4m loan application, including holes in his claims about a New York City property.

The defendant had told her the house in question would be used as a second residence, she said, but later found it listed for rental on a real estate website. Her testimony was supported by Airbnb executive Darin Evenson, who told jurors Mr Manafort's New York properties were listed for rental throughout much of 2015 and 2016.

Citizens' vice president Peggy Miceli confirmed she sent her colleagues a sad face emoji when they realised Mr Manafort did not have the funds in place to merit the loan.

Ms James also reported that Mr Manafort had erroneously told her there were no other outstanding mortgages on a separate New York property, when in fact there were. The defendant had meanwhile signed paperwork indicating he understood that he could face criminal or civil penalties if he lied to the bank. 

Joe Sommerlad10 August 2018 10:43

Yesterday's proceedings had begun with a surprise near-apology from outspoken Judge Thomas Selby Ellis III, who had accused attorneys working on behalf of Mr Mueller of allowing IRS agent Michael Welch to watch the trial from the public gallery, potentially biasing the witness's evidence.

“I was critical of counsel for… allowing an expert to remain in the courtroom. You may put that aside… I may well have been wrong,” he said.

Joe Sommerlad10 August 2018 10:58

If you need reminding of the background to this complex case, here's The Independent's Mythili Sampathkumar with an introduction to Paul Manafort, the charges against him and the possible ramifications for his old employer, President Donald Trump.

Joe Sommerlad10 August 2018 11:07

Here's The Independent's US team on Rick Gates' testimony this week, in which he revealed details of secret bank accounts in Cyprus and his own extramarital affair, insisting the luxury lifestyle of "fancy hotels" he was accustomed to was not paid for with embezzled cash.

Prosecutor Kevin Downing asked the 46-year-old witness: "There’s another life, right, the other Rick Gates? The secret Rick Gates?”

Mr Manafort's defence team is expected to attack Mr Gates' credibility when it makes its case next week.

Joe Sommerlad10 August 2018 11:30

It's worth restating that the prosecution is unlikely to delve into direct questions relating to the Donald Trump camp or its possible connection to Russian agents interested in fixing the result of the 2016 US presidential election during the current trial.

The Manafort case is about getting to the bottom of apparent financial irregularities concerning the individual and his time working as a political consultant in Eastern Europe between 2006 and 2015.

It does, however, establish a clear link between key Trump allies and associates of Russian president Vladimir Putin and the Kremlin.

Or, as Judge Ellis framed it in an address to prosecutors during a preliminary hearing: “You don’t really care about Mr Manafort’s bank fraud. You really care about what information Mr Manafort can give you that would reflect on Mr Trump or lead to his prosecution or impeachment or whatever.”

Joe Sommerlad10 August 2018 11:44

What we can expect today are more bankers from Banc of California, Genesis Capital and the Federal Savings Bank of Chicago to take the stand and give their own testimony in relation to the felony charges Mr Manafort is facing.

Mr Manafort is understood to have received $16m in loans from the last of these institutions.

Joe Sommerlad10 August 2018 11:44

It might also be worth reminding ourselves of President Trump's stance on the trial.

“He worked for me, what, for 49 days or something?... I feel badly for some people because they have gone back 12 years to find things,” The New York Times quotes the president as saying, a clear attempt to distance himself from the defendant, who in fact worked for him for five months.

He also tweeted the following when Mr Manafort's bail was revoked in June.

Joe Sommerlad10 August 2018 12:14

A reminder of what's at stake in this trial.

Mr Manafort is facing 18 felony charges against him, nine of which relate to bank fraud and bank fraud conspiracy and carry maximum possible prison sentences of 30 years. 

If he were found guilty of all nine by the Virginia federal court, he could be sentenced to a maximum of 270 years in jail.

Joe Sommerlad10 August 2018 12:54

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