Trump has managed to cling onto his property empire after posting $175m bond. What happens next?

Donald Trump secured the reduced bond on 1 April, putting Letitia James’ abilities to start seizing his assets on hold – for now

Joe Sommerlad
Tuesday 02 April 2024 16:33 BST
Related: Former Obama official calls Trump ‘Don Poorleone’

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Louise Thomas

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Donald Trump has paid his $175m bond in his New York civil fraud case, a week after he was handed an extraordinary lifeline just as deadline day dawned.

Judge Arthur Engoron ruled in February that Mr Trump was liable for a decade-long scheme that saw the value of Trump Organization assets routinely inflated in order to obtain favourable loans from banks and insurers, ordering him to pay $354m in fines and a further $110m plus in interest.

As the interest ticked ever-upwards at 9 per cent or $120,000 a day, the exact total he owed as the deadline arrived was closer to $468.1m, with his lawyers arguing that he had been unable to find a surety company willing to stump up the cash – after approaching more than 30 – given the sheer scale of the money involved.

On 25 March, a panel of state Appellate Division judges unexpectedly granted the Republican presidential candidate a 10-day extension and slashed the $464m bond value.

Mr Trump subsequently pledged on Truth Social that he would “abide by the decision of the Appellate Division, and post either a bond, equivalent securities or cash”.

On Easter Monday, with the help of California’s Knight Specialty Insurance Company, Mr Trump posted that $175m bond, having put up all the collateral in cash, according to owner Don Hankey.

This means that New York attorney general Letitia James cannot yet begin seizing the former president’s assets – including some of the most prized property in his real estate empire.

Here’s what could happen next:

What happens next for Trump?

Mr Trump – who is also battling four criminal cases in Washington DC, New York, Georgia and Florida while simultaneously campaigning for the presidency, chewing up an estimated $230,000 per day in legal expenses – was granted a considerable reprieve by the appelate judges but could still ultimately end up owing the full $464m should he go on to lose his appeal.

For now though, he has bought himself time, several months in fact, as the appeals case will not take place until September at the earliest, when the court’s autumn term commences.

This, however, does bring the matter uncomfortably close to Election Day on 5 November – a period when many of the candidate’s other legal entanglements likewise threaten to come to a head.

In the meantime, Mr Trump has also seen a major improvement in his financial prospects within the last week, after his tech arm, Trump Media and Technology, which operates Truth Social, began trading on the Nasdaq exchange. Its shares intially sold like hot cakes on 28 March and hit a high of $79 to send the tycoon’s net worth ballooning, a development he could capitalise on by selling off his interest in six months’ time to the tune of several billion dollars. That said, the offering has since been derided as a volatile “meme stock” by trading experts after the shares lost 20 per cent of their value the other side of the Easter weekend in response to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing that revealed the company had made a $58m loss in 2023.

The next important date on Mr Trump’s calendar is 15 April, when jury selection begins in the unrelated “hush money” case against him in Manhattan, where he stands accused of falsifying business records in 2016 to conceal payments made to porn star Stormy Daniels and ex-Playboy model Karen McDougal in exchange for their silence about his alleged affairs.

Donald Trump
Donald Trump (Reuters)

What’s next for Letitia James?

Had Mr Trump come up short, Ms James had the authority to begin seizing his assets, including some of his most treasured properties, with a view to selling them on to make up the total owed. The state attorney general had the power under New York law to enforce the judgement as soon as it was issued in February but Mr Trump was granted an initial 30-day grace period, which was effectively extended to 40 by the appellate court’s ruling.

But now that Mr Trump has posted bond, Ms James cannot start seizing his assets and must bide her time. However, should Mr Trump ultimately lose his appeal in September, it’s game on once more.

Should she seek to seize the candidate’s accounts at that juncture, the process would first involve her sending out restraining notices to banks and brokerage firms ordering the freezing of his accounts. She would also need a court order to be able to access the money.

Ms James could also seize a defeated Mr Trump’s property, including his namesake Trump Tower.

Her office already started taking steps toward recovering some of the former president’s assets last month in case he failed to meet his bond. In filings dated 7 March, her office entered the trial judgement with the county clerk’s office in New York’s Westchester County – home to Mr Trump’s Seven Springs estate and his Trump National Golf Club Westchester – a development that indicated her office was gearing up to take possession of those properties should it become necessary.

New York attorney general Letitia James
New York attorney general Letitia James (AP)

What has each side said about the fraud case?

Mr Trump has repeatedly railed against Ms James and Judge Engoron on Truth Social, denying any wrongdoing and baselessly claiming the case against him is a “witch hunt” being orchestrated by his enemies.

In a rant on the eve of his original bond deadline, he fumed in a post on his platform that: “I HAVE DONE NOTHING WRONG!”

“These Radical Left Lunatics and Communists ask me to pay a ridiculous and completely unheard of fine of over $450,000,000 only because they saw a similar amount in my bank account. I had intended to use much of that hard earned money on running for President. They don’t want me to do that – ELECTION INTERFERENCE!” he said.

For her part, Ms James has said she is more than happy to begin repossessing Mr Trump’s properties should the need arise.

“If he does not have funds to pay off the judgement, then we will seek judgement enforcement mechanisms in court and we will ask the judge to seize his assets,” she told ABC News.

“We are prepared to make sure that the judgement is paid to New Yorkers, and yes, I look at 40 Wall Street each and every day.”

Trump Tower in Manhattan
Trump Tower in Manhattan (Reuters)

How did Trump end up here?

Ms James first brought her civil case against the Trump Organization in September 2022, suing Mr Trump, his three oldest children Donald Trump Jr, Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump (who was later excluded), former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, former controller Jeffrey McConney and 10 related companies alleging that they had engaged in financial fraud by habitually misrepresenting their property values to potential lenders and tax officials for monetary gain.

Judge Engoron duly presided over an 11-week jury trial between October and December after which the defendants were found liable for fraud and ordered to disgorge their ill-gotten gains.

The judge issued a 92-page ruling on 16 February siding with Ms James in which he found that the “defendants failed to accept responsibility or to impose internal controls to prevent future recurrences” and accused them of having “submitted blatantly false financial data” so as to “borrow more and at lower rates”.

In addition to ordering the massive repayment, he barred Mr Trump from running a business in New York for three years and his sons for two years.

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