Trump loses attempt to pause $454m fraud ruling – for now

Trump was handed a lifeline as his deadline loomed, gaining a 10 day extention to only pay $175m of his penalty (POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
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An appellate court judge in New York has partially rejected Donald Trump’s attempt to pause a $454m judgment against him as the former president navigates his appeal of a devastating ruling after a years-long fraud case.

State appellate judge Anil Singh on Wednesday denied Mr Trump’s request to halt enforcement of the monetary judgment against him, but the former president will still be allowed to direct his real estate empire and apply for loans.

Mr Trump must pay the full amount of the judgment or post bond to halt the ruling against him as he appeals the decision from New York Justice Arthur Engoron, but the former president and his co-defendants can now get financial help to do it.

Attorneys for Mr Trump requested to put up only $100m to post bond in an appeal, signalling that the former president is coming up short to block it. Mr Trump’s attorneys had argued that they could not secure a bond with the loan penalty in place.

In a lengthy filing to a New York appeals court, the former president’s legal team argued that the sprawling case against him and his family business falls outside the statute of limitations, with a final judgment representing an “unprecedented and unconstitutional” violation of his Eighth Amendment right against excessive fines.

They argued that his ban from running his companies and receiving loans is “draconian” and would “needlessly result in irreparable injury,” setting a precedent for “any citizen of this State who has the misfortune of dissenting” from the “politics” of state attorney general Letitia James, whose three-year investigation and lawsuit sparked a months-long trial in Manhattan.

Wednesday’s order is temporary, with Mr Trump’s motion now headed to a full panel of appellate judges.

A response brief from Ms James’s office is due on 11 March.

The decision largely aligns with what the attorney general sought from Mr Trump as his lawyers pushed to evade tens of millions of dollars in financial penalties, and that the defendants in the case should be required to post a bond in the amount of the full judgment in order to move the appeals process forward.

Mr Trump’s attorneys previously argued that if the appeals court allows the judgment to stand, he would need to sell properties 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.”

“Simply put, [the defendants] would be unable to recover the value of that which was taken by the court and the Attorney General during the pendency of the appeal,” they wrote.

Judge Engoron’s 92-page ruling released on 16 February found that Mr Trump, his sons Donald Trump Jr and Eric Trump, former Trump Organization executives Allen Weisselberg and Jeffrey McConney, and companies behind Mr Trump’s brand-building properties were liable for falsely inflating his net worth and assets to secure favourable financing terms over a decade.

The total “disgorgement” owed back to the state among all the defendants – money that is effectively forfeited as “ill-gotten gains” – amounts to roughly $364m, plus at least $100m in interest.

The interest on Mr Trump’s portion of a final judgment comes to more than $112,000 each day.