By Lauren del Valle, CNN
Former President Donald Trump staffer Anthony Scaramucci took the stand Thursday in a federal case against a former Chicago Bank executive whom Scaramucci says he helped get an interview for a potential spot in the administration.
Stephen Calk, the former chairman and CEO of The Federal Savings Bank, is on trial in Manhattan for allegedly pushing through $16 million in risky bank loans for Paul Manafort, Trump’s onetime campaign chairman, in 2016 and 2017 while conspiring with Manafort to get a high-ranking spot in the Trump administration.
Scaramucci testified that Manafort asked him to get Calk an interview for the position of secretary of the Army during the transition after Trump was elected president in 2016.
At the time, Scaramucci was on the self-proclaimed “tiger team” with Jared Kushner and other inner-circle Trump advisers, which was overseeing interviews for under secretary and deputy secretary positions across the administration.
“The Mooch” said Thursday that he didn’t know Calk but it was not uncommon for people to contact him with recommendations for personnel picks.
Though Manafort had taken formal leave from Trump’s staff, Scaramucci said they had a good relationship and he “wanted to be helpful” to Manafort when he reached out pushing Calk and another friend for administration positions.
Scaramucci testified that Manafort called Calk “a friend of his” who “worked on the campaign and had been an early supporter of the president-elect” but never mentioned the bank loans he got from Calk.
Had he known that dynamic, Scaramucci testified, he would not have helped Calk get an interview.
The defense counsel argued Wednesday during opening statements that Calk didn’t know he was doing anything wrong in giving Manafort $16 million in loans, saying it was Manafort who had committed fraud by lying about his wealth to get the loans approved.
“This is not a sweetheart deal,” said Calk’s attorney Paul Schoeman.
Schoeman acknowledged that Calk “absolutely” had sought advice and help from Manafort to get a government position because he “really loves the military” as a former member of the Army Reserve and wanted to serve the country.
But the only role Calk got was an unpaid position during Trump’s campaign on his Economic Advisory Council, Schoeman said.
Scaramucci, who also worked on the Trump campaign, said that advisory role was a glorified fundraising gig to get big-ticket donors to encourage their wealthy friends to donate to Trump’s cause.
Scaramucci said he had corresponded with Calk about several potential roles he might be interested in because Florida Panthers owner Vincent Viola was already slotted for secretary of the Army at the time.
Jurors were shown text messages from Manafort and Calk following up with Scaramucci several times about the interview process between November 2016 and January 2017.
Calk was eventually given an interview at Trump Tower for under secretary of the Army but was never offered nor did he accept a position within the Trump administration.
Scaramucci is set to continue testifying in Manhattan federal court Tuesday morning, when the trial continues.
He declined to comment as he left the courthouse Thursday. “That’s unusual for me, right? Nothing to say,” Scaramucci told reporters.
Anna Ivakhnik, a former Federal Savings Bank employee, testified earlier in the day on her concerns at the time about Manafort’s loan application and financial position before she left the company in September 2016.
Kory Langhofer, lead attorney for the Trump transition team, testified briefly Thursday about preserved emails from the team that were submitted as evidence in the case.
The alleged “quid pro quo” between Calk and Manafort came up in 2018 at Manafort’s trial in Virginia.
Manafort was found guilty on eight counts of financial fraud, but jurors deadlocked on the four counts of bank fraud and conspiracy related to the fraudulent loans he had received from Calk’s bank. Months later, Manafort pleaded guilty in a separate federal case in Washington, DC, and admitted to all the conduct alleged in the Virginia trial, including conspiring with Calk to commit bank fraud.
Trump pardoned Manafort and the March indictment in Calk’s case did not charge Manafort as part of the alleged conspiracy.
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