Trump Denounces Appeals Court Ruling That He Must Pay $464 Million Judgment: ‘Businesses Will Flee … While Criminals Roam the Streets’

The appeals court battle, which will ultimately decide the fraud case, is now in full swing.

Seth Wenig-Pool/Getty Images
President Trump is flanked by his attorneys at his civil fraud trial at New York. Seth Wenig-Pool/Getty Images

President Trump lashed out late Wednesday night after an appeals court judge ruled that afternoon that he must pay the $464 million judgment in his civil fraud case, while he appeals. 

“I did nothing wrong except build a successful and very liquid company owning some of the Greatest Properties in the World and defeat Hillary Rodham Clinton,” Mr. Trump wrote on his social media platform, Truth Social. “This is a Political Witch Hunt and will lead to the destruction of New York State with businesses and people fleeing by the thousands while criminals continue to roam the streets. We will continue to appeal until Justice prevails!”

Wednesday afternoon, an associate justice of the New York Appellate Division’s First Department, Anil Singh, ruled that, “The interim stay is denied as to the enforcement of the monetary judgment.”  

Mr. Trump had asked that the appeals court allow him to post only a $100 million bond – a guarantee from an outside company that the judgment will be paid if Mr. Trump loses his appeals – but the judge said no.

Associate Justice Anil Singh of the New York Supreme Court ruled that President Trump must pay the huge judgment even as he appeals. LinkedIn

In something of a split decision for the former president, the temporary ruling lifted the restrictions that ban Mr. Trump from borrowing money from New York banks and from running his businesses. 

Judge Singh granted the defendants the right to serve “as an officer or director”, and “in the financial control function of any New York cooperation” while he appeals. He also allowed Mr. Trump to apply “for loans from any financial institution” registered in the Empire State. 

This decision will be reviewed in mid March by a five-judge panel of the appellate division. Legal observers of this case, brought against Mr. Trump by New York’s attorney general, Letitia James, have long predicted that the real battle will be fought during the appeals process. That battle is now well underway.

On February 23, a lower court judge, Arthur Engoron, finalized the judgment awarding the State of New York over $464 million in damages after Ms. James sued Mr. Trump, his two eldest sons, two former employees, and ten of Mr. Trump’s companies for business fraud. Her case alleges that the Trumps fraudulently inflated their net worth by as much as $2 billion in a decades-long scheme to gain favorable loans from banks and insurance companies.

Justice Arthur Engoron and his principal clerk, Allison Greenfield. John Taggart-Pool/Getty Images

In addition to imposing the Brobdingnagian fine, Judge Engoron further prohibited Mr. Trump from running any businesses in New York for three years and from borrowing money from New York registered financial institutions. He also ordered that two government appointed independent monitors oversee the finances of his companies for the next three years. 

On Monday, Mr. Trump appealed the verdict. Then, on Wednesday, his defense attorneys urged the appeals court to pause any requirement that Mr. Trump pay the huge judgment. They also suggested another option: that the court accept  a bond of $100 million to secure the payment, instead of $464 million, until the appeals court has reached a decision.                     

“The exorbitant and punitive amount of the judgment,” defense attorneys, Alina Habba and Cliffort Robert wrote, “coupled with an unlawful and unconstitutional blanket prohibition on lending transactions would make it impossible to secure and post a complete bond. Appellants nonetheless plan to secure and post a bond in the amount of $100 million.”

One of the key arguments in their 1,793 pages-long expedited application is irreparable harm. The harm Mr. Trump and his co-defendants would suffer from raising $464 million would be irreparable, the attorneys write, if they were to win the case on appeal, or if the appeals judges were to significantly lower the amount.   

Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a press conference following a verdict against President Trump in a civil fraud trial. Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Referring to Mr. Trump’s assets, the defense reasoned that “properties would likely need to be sold to raise capital under exigent circumstances, and there would be no way to recover any property sold following a successful appeal and no means to recover the resulting financial losses from the Attorney General.”

Furthermore, the exorbitant damage award “threatens to needlessly grind to a halt Appellants’ day-to-day operations for three years. Such relief is not narrowly tailored to enjoining purportedly fraudulent practices, and the harm inflicted on Appellants will be irreparable.” 

To pay the full amount is unnecessary, the attorneys insist, especially if independent oversight keeps an eye on the company’s finances. “Those assets are not going anywhere, nor could they, given the oversight of the Monitor and the practical realities of the existence of the very public Judgment.”  

Ms. James asked the appeals court to deny the request. 

President Trump stands with his lawyer Alina Habba as she speaks to the media at one of his properties, 40 Wall Street, following closing arguments at his civil fraud trial on January 11, 2024 at New York City. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

“There is substantial risk that defendants will attempt to evade enforcement of the judgment (or make enforcement more difficult) following appeal,” a senior assistant solicitor general at the attorney general’s office, Dennis Fan, wrote on Wednesday.  

Mr. Fan alerted the appeals court that Mr. Trump had recently relocated some of his New York business addresses to Florida. “After the court issued its February 16 order, defendants announced for the first time that various Trump Organization entities operating in New York are allegedly now located in Florida,” Mr. Fan said. “There is unfortunately a distinct need to ensure that defendants do not dissipate their assets or transfer them out of this jurisdiction.” 

Mr. Fan recalled the findings of the independent monitor, a former federal judge, Barbara Jones, who has been overseeing the Trump Organization since November 2022, and has been ordered to continue doing so for the next three years, alongside an independent compliance monitor.      

“Even with the independent monitor that they now tout, defendants have already during this action surreptitiously transferred $40 million from their accounts without disclosing the transfer to the monitor, in violation of Supreme Court’s orders,” Mr. Fan argued.

President Trump speaks after arriving for his civil business fraud trial in New York State Supreme Court on December 7, 2023. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez-Pool/Getty Images

“Absent a full bond or deposit,” he concluded, “OAG would be highly prejudiced and forced to expend substantial resources to execute the judgment on defendants’ real property and other assets.” 

The appellate judge sided with Ms. James in terms of the payment. He also left the monitors in place. But he disagreed on potential harm and lifted, temporarily, the restrictions on the Trumps doing business in New York. 

Wednesday’s ruling will be reviewed by a full appellate panel of five judges after the state and the defense submit their briefs by March 18. Given that Mr. Trump’s motion was filed on an expedited basis, a decision may come as soon as the end of March. No oral arguments are expected.    

Regardless of the appeals proceedings, Mr. Trump and his co-defendants must secure the damage payment by March 25, either via cash deposit in an escrow account or by finding a company that puts up a bond, which would require cash or collateral pledges. 

President Trump also has been ordered to pay a writer, E. Jean Carroll, more than $83 million for calling her ‘a total con job.’ Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

After that date, if Mr. Trump had not complied, Ms. James could try to seize his bank accounts or take control of some of his New York properties.

On the same day, March 25, another legal battle is scheduled to begin, the criminal trial at the New York Supreme Court Criminal Term in Lower Manhattan. The Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, has charged the former president with 34 counts of falsifying business records to cover up alleged hush-money payments to the porn star Stormey Daniels. Mr. Trump pleaded not guilty to all charges. 

Then there is the $83.3 million defamation award Mr. Trump was ordered to pay the former advice columnist E. Jean Carroll, after calling her accusation that he raped her “a total con job,” and continuing to insult her on social media.   

According to a recent New York Times review, “as of last year” Mr. Trump held “more than $350 million in cash, as well as stocks and bonds he could sell in a hurry.”  

40 Wall Street, one of the Trump Organization’s signature properties, could be seized by Letitia James if the Trump don’t pay the judgement. Spencer Platt/Getty Images.

Meanwhile, the New York Post reported on Wednesday that Mr. Trump could also “reap a windfall as much as $4 billion from an upcoming merger tied to his social media company.” But will that money come in time for the payment deadlines? The shareholder vote, the New York Post writes, is scheduled for March 22. “Unless the company files to expedite,” Mr. Trump would have to wait five months before he can cash in on the merger. 

Perhaps on a more hopeful note for Mr. Trump, his daughter-in-law, Lara Trump, whom Mr. Trump wants to nominate as co-chair for the Republican National Committee, recently commented that GOP voters would “absolutely” support the RNC covering Mr. Trump’s legal fees, as reported by the Sun. “I think that’s a big interest to people,” Ms. Trump said. Her husband, Eric, was a defendant in Ms. James’ suit.

But Mr. Trump’s campaign co-manager Chris LaCivita, whom Trump may install as the RNC’s chief operating officer, said in separate statements that it is “the RNC’s sole responsibility to defeat Joe Biden and win back the White House,” and that the RNC will refrain from using funds to cover Mr. Trump’s legal bills.

The New York Sun

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