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In win for Trump, appeals court lowers his bond to $175M in civil fraud case

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(NEW YORK) — A New York appellate court has ruled that former President Donald Trump can post a lower bond to cover his $464 million civil fraud judgment.

The Appellate Division, First Department said Trump can post a bond “in the amount of $175 million” to cover the judgment.

Trump’s attorneys had argued obtaining a bond for the full amount of $464 million was a “practical impossibility.”

The panel of five judges also opted to delay enforcement of the $464 million judgment by 10 days.

The ruling comes as Trump and his sons faced a Monday deadline to pay or secure a bond, or risk New York Attorney General Letitia James beginning the process of seizing the former president’s prized assets.

“It is ordered that the motion is granted to the extent of staying enforcement of those portions of the Judgment (1) ordering disgorgement to the Attorney General of $464,576,230.62, conditioned on defendants-appellants posting, within ten (10) days of the date of this order, an undertaking in the amount of $175 million dollars,” the two-page order said.

Trump, addressing reporters during his appearance Monday at a hearing in his hush money criminal case, thanked the appellate court for the ruling.

“I greatly respect the decision of the Appellate Division, and I’ll post either $175 million in cash or bonds or security or whatever is necessary very quickly within the 10 days, and I thank the Appellate Division for acting quickly,” Trump said.

“We got what we wanted,” one source close to Trump told ABC News.

Thirty bond companies had declined to offer Trump a bond to cover the full $464 million judgment and were waiting for the appeals court to rule.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the New York attorney general said, “The $464 million judgment — plus interest — against Donald Trump and the other defendants still stands.”

“Donald Trump is still facing accountability for his staggering fraud,” the statement said. “The court has already found that he engaged in years of fraud to falsely inflate his net worth and unjustly enrich himself, his family, and his organization.”

Trump attorney Alina Habba, in a statement, said, “We are extremely pleased with the ruling issued by the Appellate Division. This monumental holding reigns in Judge Engoron’s verdict, which is an affront to all Americans. This is the first important step in fighting back against Letitia James and her targeted witch hunt against my client which started before she ever stepped foot in office.”

“The First Department no doubt recognized the rule of law must triumph over the political agenda of the Attorney General,” said Trump attorney Christopher Kise. “President Trump looks forward to a full and fair appellate process which overturns the judgment and ends the Attorney General’s abuse of power and tyrannical pursuit of the front running candidate for President of the United States.”

In February, Judge Arthur Engoron found that Trump and his sons had committed a decade of fraud by inflating their assets to obtain better business deals. Trump and his sons have denied all wrongdoing and have appealed the ruling.

The finding and $354 million penalty, plus interest, immediately presented a cash crunch for a man who successfully ran for president on his wealth and success.

“I mean I became president because of the brand, OK? I became president. I think it’s the hottest brand in the world,” Trump told the attorney general’s office during a deposition last year.

Since Judge Engoron’s order last month, Trump’s lawyers have made a concerted effort to delay the enforcement of the massive financial penalty in his civil fraud case as well as the $83.3 million judgment he was ordered to pay after a jury found him liable for defaming the writer E. Jean Carroll. Trump, who has denied all wrongdoing, has filed a notice of appeal in that case.

Following Trump’s fraud judgment, Trump’s lawyers first asked Judge Engoron to delay entering the judgment by 30 days “to allow for an orderly post-Judgment process, particularly given the magnitude of Judgment.”

Engoron denied that request and signed the judgment on Feb. 22; the following day, the New York Supreme Court clerk entered the judgment, effectively starting the clock for the financial penalties in the case.

“You have failed to explain, much less justify, any basis for a stay,” Engoron wrote in response to the defense’s request. “I am confident that the Appellate Division will protect your appellate rights.”

The following week, Trump’s lawyers asked New York’s Appellate Division, First Department for permission to post a $100 million bond — a fraction of the over $550 million needed to cover the full judgment. They advised the court that a bond for the complete judgment was “impossible” and that the Trump Organization might have to sell off properties.

“In the absence of a stay on the terms herein outlined, 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,” defense attorneys said.

Lawyers for the New York attorney general pushed back against their request, arguing Trump might attempt to evade punishment if his appeal fails.

An appellate judge on Feb. 28 denied Trump’s request for a stay of the financial penalty, but lifted a ruling Judge Engoron handed down prohibiting Trump from running any New York company and accessing lines of credit, opening the door for Trump to ask surety companies for a bond.

But Trump’s lawyers returned to the same court last Monday, asking again for a delay because finding a bond company to sign off on a $550 million bond was a “practical impossibility,” they told the court. Because of the size of the bond and the necessity for Trump to use property as collateral, more than 30 surety companies turned down the potential bond, according to a court filing.

“Perhaps worst of all, the Attorney General argues that Defendants should be forced to dispose of iconic, multi-billion-dollar real-estate holdings in a ‘fire sale,"” a defense lawyer told the court.

Trump himself has claimed that he has almost $500 million dollars in cash, but his lawyers have argued that he can’t both pay the bond and run his companies. Despite not spending any of his own money on his presidential campaign in 2020, Trump also claimed he wanted to use the money on his current campaign.

“Billions of dollars of value, billions of dollars in properties, but they’d like to take the cash away, so I can’t use it on the campaign,” Trump said last week.

Trump’s lawyers also made a similar effort to delay the enforcement of the judgment in his $83.3 million defamation case, though the former president eventually secured a $91 million bond for the judgment plus interest by using a brokerage account as collateral.

While James won’t be putting a padlock on buildings like Trump Tower or 40 Wall Street, she took initial steps last week to potentially seize a golf course and estate that Trump owns in New York’s Westchester County by registering the judgment there.

“I’m going to assume they’re going to go to the New York properties first because that’s the easiest thing to do,” Steven Cohen, a New York attorney whose work includes enforcing judgments, told ABC News, said of a potential process to seize Trump’s assets.

ABC News’ Soo Rin Kim contributed to this report.

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