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Donald Trump posts $175 million in civil fraud case; gag order expanded

NEW YORK — Donald Trump posted a $175 million bond on Monday in his New York civil fraud case, halting collection of the more than $454 million he owes and preventing the state from seizing his assets to satisfy the debt while he appeals, according to a court filing.

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A New York appellate court gave the former president 10 days to put up the money after a panel of judges agreed last month to slash the amount needed to stop the clock on enforcement.

Meanwhile, the judge in Trump’s hush-money criminal case on Monday declared his daughter off-limits to the former president’s rancor, expanding a gag order days after Trump assailed and made false claims about her on social media.

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Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump speaks Sunday during the Club Golf Awards at Trump International Golf Course in West Palm Beach, Fla.

Terry Renna, Associated Press

Fraud case bond

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The bond Trump is posting with the court now is essentially a placeholder, meant to guarantee payment if the judgment is upheld. If that happens, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee will have to pay the state the whole sum, which grows with daily interest.

If Trump wins, he won’t have to pay the state anything and will get back the money he has put up now.

Until the appeals court intervened to lower the required bond, New York Attorney General Letitia James was poised to initiate efforts to collect the judgment, possibly by seizing some of Trump’s properties. James, a Democrat, brought the lawsuit on the state’s behalf. Her office declined to comment Monday.

The court ruled after Trump’s lawyers complained it was “a practical impossibility” to get an underwriter to sign off on a bond for the $454 million, plus interest, that he owes.

The company that underwrote the bond is Knight Specialty Insurance, part of the Knight Insurance Group. The chairman of that company, billionaire Don Hankey, told The Associated Press that both cash and bond were used as collateral for Trump’s appellate bond.

Trump is fighting to overturn a judge’s Feb. 16 finding that he lied about his wealth as he fostered the real estate empire that launched him to stardom and the presidency. The trial focused on how Trump’s assets were valued on financial statements that went to bankers and insurers to get loans and deals.

Trump denies any wrongdoing, saying the statements actually lowballed his fortune, came with disclaimers and weren’t taken at face value by the institutions that lent to or insured him.

The state courts’ Appellate Division said it would hear arguments in September.

Under New York law, filing an appeal generally doesn’t hold off enforcement of a judgment. However, there’s an automatic pause — in legalese, a stay — if the person or entity obtains a bond guaranteeing payment of what’s owed.

Courts sometimes grant exceptions and lower the amount required for a stay, as in Trump’s case.

Trump’s lawyers told the appeals court more than 30 bonding companies were unwilling to take a mix of cash and real estate as collateral for a $454 million-plus bond. Underwriters insisted on only cash, stocks or other liquid assets, the attorneys said.

In addition to the $175 million he had to put up in the New York case, Trump posted a bond and cash worth more than $97 million to cover money he owes to writer E. Jean Carroll while he appeals verdicts in a pair of federal civil trials. Juries found that he sexually assaulted her in the 1990s and defamed her when she went public with the allegation in 2019. He denies all the allegations.

In February, Trump paid the $392,638 in legal fees a judge ordered him to cover for The New York Times and three reporters after he unsuccessfully sued them over a Pulitzer Prize-winning 2018 story about his family’s wealth and tax practices.

In March, a British court ordered Trump to pay to pay legal fees of $382,000 to a company he unsuccessfully sued over the so-called Steele dossier that contained salacious allegations about him. Trump said those claims were false.

Gag order in hush-money case

Judge Juan M. Merchan said his original gag order — barring Trump from making public statements about jurors, witnesses and others connected to the case — did not include Merchan’s family members, but Trump’s subsequent attacks warranted including them.

“This pattern of attacking family members of presiding jurists and attorneys assigned to his cases serves no legitimate purpose,” Merchan wrote. “It merely injects fear in those assigned or called to participate in the proceedings that not only they, but their family members as well, are ‘fair game,’ for Defendant’s vitriol.”

Merchan’s daughter, Loren Merchan, is a Democratic political consultant. Prosecutors urged Merchan to clarify or expand his gag order after Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform that Loren Merchan “makes money by working to ‘Get Trump,’” and wrongly accused her of posting a social media photo showing him behind bars.

Trump’s lawyers fought the gag order and its expansion, arguing that Trump was engaging in protected political campaign speech.

The trial, involving allegations Trump falsified payment records in a scheme to cover up negative stories during his 2016 presidential campaign, is scheduled to begin April 15. Trump denies wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records.

Merchan’s gag order echoes one in Trump’s Washington, D.C., election interference criminal case. It prohibits statements meant to interfere with or harass the court’s staff, prosecution team or their families — including Merchan’s family as of Monday.

Trump remains free to criticize Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, the elected Democrat whose office is prosecuting Trump.

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