The ongoing bank and tax fraud trial of former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort finished out the week Friday with a bit of an anti-climactic thud. While the prosecution anticipated finishing up its witness list and resting its case by the end of the week, an unexplained 5-hour delay in action ate up most of the day. People have speculated that the issue may have involved one of the jurors since Judge T.S. Ellis underscored for jurors the importance and not discussing the trial and keeping “an open mind.” But beyond that, everything is speculative.
When the trial resumed a little after 2 p.m., prosecutors called two witnesses from Chicago-based Federal Savings Bank to testify about a $16 million loan Manafort secured there. The bank’s CEO, Stephen Calk, expressed interest in working in the Trump administration and one employee, loan officer Dennis Raico, testified that Calk took an unusual interest in Manafort’s loan. That interest ranged from dining with Manafort to sitting in by video conference on the application process—involvement Raico had never seen on any other loan application he handled. Buzzfeed’s Zoe Tillman writes:
On July 27, 2016, Raico said he had a meeting with Manafort and Manafort’s then-son-in-law Jeffrey Yohai, who was originally part of the loan application. (Yohai is now divorced from Manafort’s daughter). Calk joined the meeting via video, Raico said, and at the end of the call Calk said he was interested in helping Trump. Manafort’s loan application was submitted for approval the same day as the call, and was approved the next day, Raico said — he wasn’t aware of another loan approved in such a short time frame, he said.
Prosecutors showed the jury an Aug. 3, 2016, email from Manafort, then Trump’s campaign manager, requesting Calk’s resumé. Raico also said he received a call from Calk several days after the election in which Calk suggested he might get a job in the new administration. Calk wanted Raico to call Manafort and inquire about his chances for becoming Treasury Secretary or Secretary of Housing and Urban Development (remember, this is same guy Manafort emailed Rick Gates about later that month becoming Sec. of the Army). Raico declined to make the call, telling the jury, “It made me very uncomfortable.”