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James counters Trump claim he can’t raise $464M bond as deadline looms

Lawyers with New York Attorney General Letitia James’s office cast doubt on former President Donald Trump’s claim that he cannot find a company to lend him the $464 million bond he needs to appeal the judgment in his financial fraud trial. In Georgia, meanwhile, Trump and some of his co-defendants in the election interference and racketeering case are given the green light to appeal Judge Scott McAfee’s decision to allow Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to continue her prosecution of them. The lawyers say they will now approach the Georgia Court of Appeals in an attempt to have Willis removed and the charges dismissed. Here are the latest legal developments facing the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for 2024.

New York financial fraud

James’s office: Trump’s bond claims don’t add up

Key players: New York Attorney General Letitia James, Judge Arthur Engoron

  • Lawyers on James’s team submitted a filing Wednesday to a New York appeals court in response to Trump’s request to significantly reduce or stay the $464 million bond required to be paid on Monday to appeal the judgment in his New York financial fraud trial, CNN reported.

  • Trump’s lawyers stated that their loan requests had been turned down by 30 insurance companies, but did not specify what collateral they had offered in return.

  • In the filing, James’s team wrote that Trump’s lawyers “supply no documentary evidence that demonstrates precisely what real property they offered to sureties, on what terms that property was offered, or precisely why the sureties were unwilling to accept the assets.”

  • On Monday, Trump’s lawyers told the appeals court that the former president faced “insurmountable difficulties” in raising the money for the bond, and Trump himself complained on social media that, thanks to Engoron’s ruling, he “would be forced to mortgage or sell Great Assets, perhaps at Fire Sale prices,” in order to do so.

  • James’s lawyers made sure to link Trump’s failure to secure a loan with the central issue of the fraud trial: that Trump had been found to have inflated the value of his assets.

  • “As far as the Court can infer, sureties may have refused to accept defendants’ specific holdings as collateral because using Mr. Trump’s real estate will generally need ‘a property appraisal’ … and his holdings are not nearly as valuable as defendants claim,” the filing stated.

  • James, who has already given Trump a 30-day grace period to come up with the bond amount, has stated that if Trump is unable to pay it, she would go after his real estate holdings and could freeze his bank accounts.

Why it matters: Unless the appeals court intervenes on his behalf, or Trump is given a significant loan from a wealthy friend, Monday’s deadline for payment could mark a painful turning point for the former president.

Georgia election interference

Judge McAfee grants defense attorneys’ request to appeal decision on Willis

Key Players: Judge Scott McAfee, Georgia Court of Appeals, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, former lead prosecutor Nathan Wade, Trump lawyer Steve Sadow

  • On Wednesday, McAfee granted a request by lawyers for Trump and some of his co-defendants that allows them to appeal his decision to let Willis remain on the sprawling election interference case, the Associated Press reported.

  • The attorneys for the defendants had sought to have Willis disqualified, alleging that her romantic relationship with Wade represented a conflict of interest because, they claimed, she benefited financially from hiring him.

  • In his ruling, McAfee rebuked Willis’s “tremendous” lapse in judgment, but allowed her to stay on the case on the condition that Wade step down.

  • Wade promptly tendered his resignation, but that was not enough to satisfy Sadow and the other defense lawyers, who will appeal McAfee’s decision to the Georgia Court of Appeals. “The defense is optimistic that appellate review will lead to the case being dismissed and the DA being disqualified,” Sadow said in an email to the Associated Press.

  • The appeals court will ultimately decide whether to accept the case.

  • Trump and 18 co-defendants were indicted by Willis on multiple felony counts stemming from their efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia.

Why it matters: The Fulton County District Attorney’s Office said in a statement to AP that the defense attorney’s appeal of McAfee’s ruling would not delay the trial from moving forward. But if the Georgia Court of Appeals court does hear the appeal, it could decide to remove Willis from the case, or dismiss the charges outright.

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Tuesday, March 19

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Former President Donald Trump says he may be forced to sell off his “Great Assets” at “Fire Sale prices” in order to raise the $464 million bond required as he appeals the judgment in his New York financial fraud trial. In a motion filed Monday, Trump’s lawyers seek to postpone payment of the bond as they appeal Judge Arthur Engoron’s judgment in the case. In the Jan. 6 election interference case, Trump’s lawyers file a brief asking the Supreme Court to rule that presidents have “absolute immunity” from criminal prosecution for acts committed while in office. Here are the latest legal developments involving the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for 2024.

New York financial fraud

With bond deadline approaching, Trump looks for alternatives

Key players: Judge Arthur Engoron, New York Attorney General Letitia James

  • On Tuesday, Trump vented on social media about the March 25 deadline to post a $464 million bond while he appeals Engoron’s judgment in his civil financial fraud trial, The Hill reported.

  • “Judge Engoron actually wants me to put up Hundreds of Millions of Dollars for the Right to Appeal his ridiculous decision. In other words, he is trying to take my Appellate Rights away from me,” Trump said in a post to Truth Social. “Nobody has ever heard of anything like this before.”

  • “I would be forced to mortgage or sell Great Assets, perhaps at Fire Sale prices, and if and when I win the Appeal, they would be gone. Does that make sense?” Trump added.

  • New York law requires a defendant to pay 110% of a civil judgment into an escrow account while that person appeals the decision in a case.

  • Engoron ruled that Trump, his adult sons and his family business were guilty of carrying out years of financial fraud when they inflated the value of assets to obtain favorable bank and insurance rates.

  • Thanks to a loan from the underwriter Chubb, Trump has already posted a separate bond for nearly $92 million while he appeals the jury’s verdict in the E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit. But Chubb and 29 other lenders refused to give Trump a loan to pay the larger bond amount.

  • Trump now has limited options to raise the $464 million, the New York Times reported.

  • He can hope his court appeals will lead to a stay, quickly sell off real estate assets, obtain a gift from a wealthy supporter, ask James to extend the 30-day grace period she has already given him or file for bankruptcy.

  • If none of those options are available to Trump and he fails to pay the full bond on Monday, James could begin to seize Trump’s assets and freeze his bank accounts.

Why it matters: Even as a politician, Trump’s brand has been synonymous with wealth. His New York real estate holdings, some of which were at the center of the financial fraud trial, are reportedly some of his most prized possessions.

Jan. 6 election interference

Trump asks Supreme Court to rule that presidents have ‘absolute immunity’ from prosecution

Key players: Judge Tanya Chutkan, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, U.S. Supreme Court, Trump lawyer John Sauer, special counsel Jack Smith

  • On Tuesday, Trump’s lawyers filed a brief with the Supreme Court arguing that a president enjoys “absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for his official acts,” Reuters reported.

  • “The president cannot function, and the presidency itself cannot retain its vital independence, if the president faces criminal prosecution for official acts once he leaves office,” Sauer wrote in the filing.

  • Trump is charged with conspiring to defraud the United States, conspiring to disenfranchise voters, and conspiring and attempting to obstruct an official proceeding for his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election.

  • His attorneys claim Trump’s actions were part of his official duties as president and argued in their brief that allowing him to be prosecuted would forever alter the job.

  • “The threat of future prosecution and imprisonment would become a political cudgel to influence the most sensitive and controversial presidential decisions, taking away the strength, authority and decisiveness of the presidency,” the filing states.

  • In fact, Trump is the first president in U.S. history charged with a crime after leaving office.

  • Smith has countered that Trump contested the election in an attempt to remain in power, and that no one is above the law.

  • Chutkan and the court of appeals both ruled in Smith’s favor, but Trump has appealed the matter to the Supreme Court.

  • An Ipsos/Politico poll released this week found that 70% of U.S. voters and 48% of Republicans reject Trump’s assertion that he is immune to criminal prosecution for acts committed while in office.

Why it matters: While Trump’s lawyers argue that presidential power would be upended if the Supreme Court ruled that a commander in chief could never be prosecuted for acts committed while in office, prosecutors have focused on Trump’s efforts to overturn the election. Left unsaid is what consequences might unfold if the Supreme Court enshrines protections for a president’s actions, whatever they may entail, while still residing at the White House.

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Monday, March 18

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Lawyers for former President Donald Trump file an emergency appeal challenging Judge Scott McAfee’s ruling that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis can continue to prosecute Trump and 18 others on election interference charges now that lead prosecutor Nathan Wade has stepped down. Trump’s lawyers tell a New York appeals court that he faces “insurmountable difficulties” in securing the $464 million bond from lenders that he is required to pay as he appeals the judgment in his financial fraud civil trial. Trump is also asking the court to lower the amount he must pay while he appeals the case. Here are the latest legal developments facing the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for 2024.

Georgia election interference

Trump appeals judge’s decision allowing Fani Willis to remain on case

Key players: Trump lawyer Steve Sadow, Judge Scott McAfee, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, former lead prosecutor Nathan Wade, the Georgia Court of Appeals

  • On Monday, Trump and eight of his co-defendants filed an emergency appeal of McAfee’s ruling that allowed Willis to remain on the case against Trump and 18 others so long as Wade stepped aside, USA Today reported.

  • “The motion notes that the Court found that Willis’ actions created an appearance of impropriety and an ‘odor of mendacity’ that lingers in this case, but it nonetheless refused to dismiss the case or disqualify her,” the filing with the Georgia Court of Appeals states.

  • Willis and Wade admitted to having a romantic relationship, but denied conflict-of-interest claims by the defendants that Willis had benefited financially by hiring Wade or had lied when called to testify about that relationship.

  • Willis indicted Trump and 18 others for their efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia. So far, four of the defendants have pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against the others charged in the case.

  • McAfee has yet to schedule a date for the trial for the remaining defendants.

  • It is unclear whether the appeals court will take the case.

Why it matters: While McAfee allowed Willis to remain on the case, the appeals process could further delay the trial against Trump and the other defendants until after the November election.

New York financial fraud

Trump asks appeals court to allow him to delay payment of bond

Key players: Judge Arthur Engoron, New York Attorney General Letitia James, Trump lawyers Alina Habba and Clifford Robert, Trump Organization general counsel Alan Garten

  • Trump’s lawyers told a New York appeals court that the former president had approached 30 underwriters to try to secure the $464 million bond required for him to proceed with his appeal of Engoron’s judgment in the financial fraud trial, but none had agreed to lend him the money, CNN reported.

  • “The amount of the judgment, with interest, exceeds $464 million, and very few bonding companies will consider a bond of anything approaching that magnitude,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in a court filing.

  • Trump is asking the appeals court to reduce the bond amount and to delay its payment until after his appeal is heard.

  • Last month, Engoron ordered Trump to pay the state $355 million plus interest for years of fraudulent business practices, including the inflation of his assets to obtain favorable loan and insurance rates.

  • Trump is appealing the decision, which obliges him to deposit 110% of the total amount owed into an escrow account as the appeals court hears the case.

  • In Monday’s filing, Garten also painted a dim outlook for Trump’s ability to raise the bond amount.

  • “Defendants have faced what have proven to be insurmountable difficulties in obtaining an appeal bond for the full $464 million,” he wrote, ABC News reported.

  • James has said that if Trump does not come up with the full bond amount, she would go after his real estate assets.

  • “Obtaining such cash through a ‘fire sale’ of real estate holdings would inevitably result in massive, irrecoverable losses — textbook irreparable injury,” Trump’s lawyers wrote in their filing.

  • Habba and Robert also argued that the bond amount was “unconstitutionally excessive.”

Why it matters: During his trial, Trump told the court that he had $400 million on hand that he could apply toward a bond. Since then, he lost two high-profile cases, pushing his liabilities over half a billion dollars. He has paid a nearly $92 billion bond amount as he appeals a jury’s verdict in the defamation lawsuits brought by columnist E. Jean Carroll.

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