Trump wins appeal to lower bond from $454m to $175m in New York fraud case

Reprieve comes on same day former US president appears in court on hush-money charges

Former president Donald Trump leaves Manhattan criminal court on February 15, 2024, in New York. AP
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Donald Trump's $454 million bond in a New York fraud case was reduced to $175 million on appeal on the same day he appeared in court for a case involving hush money paid to an adult film star in 2016.

The former US president's reprieve came the day he was to have been forced to pay the bond or risk having some of his assets seized.

He will now have 10 days to pay the bond.

The billionaire real estate mogul had been warning for weeks that he did not have enough cash to cover a bond while he appeals the verdict.

Mr Trump had asked the appeals court to waive the requirement, arguing he would be forced to hold a “fire sale” of his assets to raise cash. He would have needed 120 per cent of the judgment, or about $545 million.

Last week, Mr Trump said that he had “almost $500 million” in cash but claimed he would need closer to $1 billion in reserves to cover the bond and still have enough cash on hand to run his sprawling property company.

The former president said the cash crunch emerged after 30 insurance companies that arrange such bonds refused to take any of his properties as collateral.

Donald Trump vows to appeal against New York judge's ruling

Donald Trump vows to appeal against New York judge's ruling

The weight of Mr Trump’s many court fights has put a strain on his finances, with rising legal bills and a costly campaign for a return to the White House.

He lost a defamation trial in Manhattan earlier this year – posting a $91.6 million bond to appeal that verdict – and faces four criminal prosecutions in three states and the District of Columbia.

New York Attorney General Letitia James, who won the civil fraud trial after suing Mr Trump, had threatened to seize assets if he does not pay up.

The previous bond deadline in the fraud case coincides with Mr Trump’s appearance in one of his criminal cases.

The hearing is his last-ditch bid to dismiss charges brought by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, who accused him of falsifying business records to disguise hush money payments to a porn star before the 2016 election.

The hush-money trial was originally set to start on Monday but Justice Juan Merchan delayed it after Mr Trump’s lawyers complained that tens of thousands of pages of potentially relevant evidence was turned over at the last minute.

The records relate to information gathered years earlier during a separate federal investigation of Mr Trump’s former lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, who helped to arrange the payments and is expected to be a key government witness against his former boss.

Mr Merchan bristled at what he suggested were baseless defence claims of “prosecutorial misconduct", appearing unpersuaded by Trump team arguments.

“That you don’t have a case right now is really disconcerting because the allegation that the defence makes in all of your papers is incredibly serious. Unbelievably serious," Mr Merchan said.

“You’re accusing the Manhattan district attorney’s office and the people involved in this case of prosecutorial misconduct and of trying to make me complicit in it. And you don’t have a single citation to support that position.”

Mr Merchan summoned both sides to court to explain what happened with the documents.

He set the start date of the trial for April 15.

Mr Bragg’s case will be the first of the criminal cases to go to trial and so far the only one scheduled to go before a jury before the November presidential election.

It is not clear yet when trials will start in the separate election-interference cases in Washington and Georgia, or the classified records case in Florida.

Mr Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, has denied wrongdoing in all the cases and assailed Mr Bragg’s prosecution as a “witch hunt”.

Mr Bragg indicted Mr Trump about a year ago, alleging the billionaire filed false business records as part of scheme to suppress allegations by the porn star and others that threatened to hurt his 2016 campaign for president.

Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to federal campaign finance and tax charges tied to the hush-money payments.

At the time, prosecutors said Cohen paid porn star Stormy Daniels $130,000 to buy her silence about a sexual encounter with Trump a decade earlier.

The US said the payment was made with Mr Trump’s knowledge but did not charge him because the Justice Department maintained a sitting president could not be indicted.

Mr Bragg’s state indictment unsealed last April alleged Mr Trump falsified his company’s business records by claiming he reimbursed Cohen for legal work to conceal the true nature of the hush-money payments.

Updated: March 26, 2024, 8:36 AM