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

Aug 10 (Reuters) - The chief executive officer of a small Chicago bank that approved $16 million in loans to former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort was seeking a post in the new administration, a witness testified on Friday in Manafort's fraud trial.

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.

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

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 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.

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Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort through the years
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Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort through the years
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign chair and convention manager Paul Manafort speaks at a press conference at the Republican Convention in Cleveland, U.S., July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump gives a thumbs up as his campaign manager Paul Manafort (C) and daughter Ivanka (R) look on during Trump's walk through at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, U.S., July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Rick Wilking
U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign chair and convention manager Paul Manafort appears at a press conference at the Republican Convention in Cleveland, U.S., July 19, 2016. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri
Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump's campaign manager Paul Manafort talks to the media from the Trump family box on the floor of the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S. July 18, 2016. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Paul Manafort, senior advisor to Republican U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump, smiles as he talks with other Trump campaign staff after Trump spoke to supporters following the results of the Indiana state primary, at Trump Tower in Manhattan, New York, U.S., May 3, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
U.S. presidential candidate Donald Trump's senior campaign adviser Paul Manafort (L) walks into a reception with former Republican presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson, at the Republican National Committee Spring Meeting at the Diplomat Resort in Hollywood, Florida, April 21, 2016. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 21: Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort listens to Ivanka Trump speak at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland on July 21, 2016. (Photo by Michael Robinson Chavez/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - JULY 20: A man with a security credential takes a selfie at the podium as Donald Trump, flanked by campaign manager Paul Manafort and daughter Ivanka, checks the podium early Thursday afternoon in preparation for accepting the GOP nomination to be President at the 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio on Wednesday July 20, 2016. (Photo By Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)
UNITED STATES - JULY 19: Paul Manafort, advisor to Donald Trump, is seen on the floor of the Quicken Loans Arena at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, Ohio, July 19, 2016. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
MEET THE PRESS -- Pictured: (l-r) Paul Manafort., Convention Manager, Trump Campaign, appears on 'Meet the Press' in Washington, D.C., Sunday April 10, 2016. (Photo by: William B. Plowman/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
NA.R.DoleMicCk1.081596.RG.Republican presidential candidate Bob Dole looks up from podium at balloons and television cameras as convention center manager Paul Manafort, at right, points out preparations for tonight's acceptance speech in San Diego, 08/15/96. (Photo by Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - MARCH 21: Paul Manafort, Roger Stone and Lee Atwater, young Republicans political operatives who have set up lobbying firms. (Photo by Harry Naltchayan/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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Four of Manafort's felony counts involve the $16 million of loans prosecutors have said 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 or HUD post.

Raico also described a July 27, 2016, meeting with Manafort during which Calk indicated 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.”

On cross-examination, defense attorney Richard Westling sought to show that Manafort had provided adequate collateral for both the $9.5 million loan he got on a Hamptons property and a $6.5 million loan on a New York City property.

Rick Gates, the deputy chairman of Trump's inaugural committee, who also worked on his campaign, 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 witnesses, three of them current or former employees of Federal Savings, on Friday.

Friday's lengthy recess derailed the prosecution's plans to wrap up its case by the end of the week. The prosecution is expected to call Brennan and at least one other witness to testify on Monday.

T.S. Ellis, the federal judge overseeing the case, said the recess could not be avoided and that he had matters to attend to. He reminded jurors to "keep an open mind," and said that Manafort is presumed innocent. He gave the jury explicit instructions to not talk about the case.

It was not clear why, but the afternoon session also was delayed.

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 on Friday, Raico testified about Gates' claiming he borrowed Manafort's American Express card for the tickets. Earlier 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.

Raico testified the large outstanding balance was counted as debt when being considered for a loan. Other witnesses also have testified that Manafort tried to represent lower debt and higher income in order to obtain loans.

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

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