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Ex-aide: Manafort backed banker for Army secretary

Former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, left,

Former Donald Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, left, with his lawyer Kevin Downing as they listen to testimony from government witness Rick Gates in court on Tuesday. Credit: AP/Dana Verkouteren

The favor bank

The trial of Paul Manafort on bank and tax fraud charges took a quick turn on Tuesday into the landscape of Donald Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, which the defendant chaired.

Rick Gates, the Manafort business associate turned prosecution witness, testified about an email to him in which Manafort sought favors for a Chicago banker. This businessman, Stephen Calk, founded and headed Federal Savings Bank, which extended Manafort a loan in 2016, as The Washington Post reported.

Manafort stepped down during the campaign. Gates remained, and later worked with the committee organizing Trump's inauguration. “We need to discuss Steve Calk for Sec of the Army," Manafort wrote that November. "I hear the list is being considered this weekend."

Two Trump nominees for the post later withdrew amid separate controversies. Calk wasn't one of them. Mark Esper, a Raytheon Company executive, ultimately got the job

Getting wired

Earlier in the trial, Gates testified that he created fake invoices to get offshore banks to wire money to Manafort for his big personal expenses. On Tuesday, he was forced by Manafort's lawyer Kevin Downing to discuss how he used the same slippery process to get funds sent to himself and cover his own trail of lies

Gates also talked about how Manafort's income stream "substantially decreased" after his client, pro-Russian Ukraine dictator Viktor Yanukovych, was forced from power amid violence in 2014. 

Meanwhile, tensions between U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III, and members of special counsel Robert Mueller's team flared. Out of jury and press earshot, Ellis accused prosecutor Greg Andres of being so frustrated as to have tears in his eyes, which he denied, Bloomberg News reported. 

Grim news on Kim nukes

National Security Adviser John Bolton says North Korea has not taken proper steps toward denuclearization in the wake of leader Kim Jong Un's meeting with Trump in June.

Bolton said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo is ready to travel to North Korea for another meeting with Kim.

Close shave

Republican Troy Balderson appeared Tuesday to have edged Democrat Danny O’Connor in a widely watched special election for an Ohio congressional seat.

The margin hours after polls closed was less than a percentage point, with all precincts reporting in what for decades has been a hands-down GOP district. Both Trump and a Republican political nemesis, Gov. John Kasich, backed Balderson.

What else is happening:

  • Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross draws allegations from former associates of improperly siphoning private funds before he was in government, Forbes reports.
  • West Hollywood's City Council approved a resolution calling for removal of Trump's Walk of Fame sidewalk star, citing "his disturbing treatment of women" and other actions.
  • Trump's legal team plans in coming days to respond to Mueller's request for a sit-down interview with the president.
  • Defense Secretary Jim Mattis is on board with creating a new "space force" combatant command.

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