Trump’s $175M bond keeps prized properties from being seized — for now

Former President Trump has secured a $175 million bond in his civil fraud case, keeping at bay the seizure of his most prized properties — for now.

The bond — a fraction of the amount Trump and his co-defendants owe after a New York judge found they engaged in deceitful business practices — ensures that New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) can’t make good on the full, multimillion-dollar judgment until after the defense’s appeal of the judge’s ruling plays out.

Judge Arthur Engoron found Trump, his company and top executives liable for fraud, ruling after 10 weeks of trial that they conspired to alter the former president’s net worth for tax and insurance benefits.

The judge ordered the defendants to pay a penalty of $464 million, plus interest — of which Trump alone owes $454 million.

Trump scored a win by staving off enforcement of the multimillion-dollar judgment by paying his bond, but whether Trump’s properties and other assets remain in his control depends on the success of his appeal of his verdict as a whole.

“It would be devastating if the appeal was affirmed,” said Gregory Germain, a law professor at Syracuse University.

By posting the bond late Monday, Trump bought himself time to mount his appeal without worrying about the staggering penalties against him being enforced.

In addition to the fine, the judge barred Trump and top executives, including his sons Donald Trump Jr. and Eric Trump, from serving in top leadership positions in New York businesses for several years and precluded them from taking out any loans in the state.

But the financial penalty posed perhaps the greatest risk to Trump, since it took aim at the foundation of his business empire: his properties.

The appeals court originally ordered Trump to post a bond in the judgment’s full amount, plus interest — a feat his legal team described as “impossible.” Trump’s lawyers said they had trouble finding a Treasury Department-approved surety company willing to underwrite such a costly bond, a core issue being that the sureties would not accept his real estate as collateral — only cash.

Without the court’s pause in place, James’s office could have started to seize Trump’s assets, including famous Trump Organization properties such as Trump Tower and 40 Wall Street.

Earlier this month, James’s office filed judgments in Westchester County, where Trump’s golf resort and private estate known as Seven Springs is located — a first step toward seizing it. In Manhattan, where the trial took place and several of Trump’s most esteemed properties are located, judgments were already filed.

James also would have had the go-ahead to drain Trump’s bank accounts, garnish his wages or force him to turn over his personal property.

However, against the attorney general’s urging, the appeals court lowered Trump’s bond in an 11th-hour ruling before the former president’s deadline to pay up.

The bond doesn’t set Trump free of all his troubles linked to the case.

Despite the pause, Trump still owes the state his $454 million portion of the judgment — and that number climbs by $112,000 in interest each day the former president doesn’t pay, which has ticked his tab up with the state to $458.5 million.

A judgment against him in the appeals court could throw him back into financial peril and cause personal embarrassment. It would also put the other penalties into effect.

“It’d be very, very difficult to operate your business when the attorney general is seizing your bank account, and you don’t have cash to pay your employees — it’d be a huge mess,” Germain said. “[Trump] would have to come up with the money. He’d have to sell property and come up with the money to pay the judgment or file bankruptcy.”

Engoron’s decision followed testimony from 40 witnesses in Trump’s business orbit, from top bankers at Deutsche Bank to his children involved in the family company.

Throughout the trial, the former president denied all wrongdoing, asserting that banks wanted to work with the Trump Organization, did their own due diligence and found no fraud. He has repeatedly attacked the case as politically motivated and Engoron’s ruling as “manifest injustice.”

Those arguments are expected to reappear throughout Trump’s appeal, though some — such as Trump’s claim that the attorney general provided “no victim” of his business’s conduct — are stronger than others, Germain said.

“He’s got good arguments to challenge the monetary awards; I think he doesn’t have good arguments to challenge the underlying decision that the financial statement was false,” he said.

Trump formally filed a notice of appeal in February, sending the case to the 1st Judicial Department Appellate Division, where his legal team will seek to get the nine-figure fine and other penalties tossed.

“We trust that the Appellate Division will overturn this egregious fine and take the necessary steps to restore the public faith in New York’s legal system,” Trump attorney Alina Habba said in a statement at the time.

Trump’s appeals papers must be filed with the 1st Department in time for its September term; the temporary pause in enforcement of Engoron’s ruling is dependent on his lawyers “perfecting” their appeal.

Though oral arguments will likely be scheduled for fall, it could be a year before any kind of opinion is issued by the appeals court — unless the appeal was expedited, which would be rare, Germain said.

On that timeline, any decision would come months after the 2024 presidential election, in which Trump is the GOP’s presumptive nominee.

“If Trump wins the election, the normal procedure is that any criminal cases are stayed during his presidency and then they could continue after his presidency,” Germain said. “As far as a civil case — I don’t know whether they would honor the tradition of staying the case until after his presidency was over.”

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to The Hill.