Trump's lawyers keep fighting $454M fraud appeal bond requirement

NEW YORK (AP) — Former President Donald Trump's lawyers kept pressing an appellate court Thursday to excuse him from covering a $454 million fraud lawsuit judgment for now, saying he'd suffer “irreparable harm" before his appeal is decided.

The financial requirement is “patently unjust, unreasonable and unconstitutional," one of the presumptive Republican presidential nominee's lawyers, Clifford Robert, wrote in a letter to a New York appeals court.

It's the latest in a flurry of arguments and counterarguments that Trump's attorneys and New York state lawyers are making ahead of Monday, when state Attorney General Letitia James can start taking steps to collect the massive sum — unless the appeals court intervenes.

James, a Democrat, said last month she was prepared to seek to seize some of Trump’s assets if he can’t pay, though it wasn't clear how quickly that might unfold. In recent weeks, her office has filed formal notice of the judgment against Trump, a step that could later allow the state to move to collect.

James’ office has declined to comment on its plans.

Trump's lawyers want the court to hold off collection, without requiring him to post a bond or otherwise cover the nine-figure judgment, while he appeals the outcome of his recent civil business fraud trial.

Judge Arthur Engoron ruled that Trump, his company and key executives deceived bankers and insurers by producing financial statements that hugely overstated his fortune. The defendants deny the claims.

The judge ordered Trump to pay $355 million in penalties, plus interest that already has pushed the total over $454 million and is growing daily. That doesn't count money that some co-defendants were ordered to pay.

Appealing doesn't, in itself, halt collection. But Trump would automatically get such a reprieve if he puts up money, assets or an appeal bond covering what he owes.

The presumptive Republican nominee's lawyers said earlier this week that he couldn't find anyone willing to issue a bond for the huge amount.

They added that underwriters insisted on cash, stocks or other liquid assets instead of real estate as collateral and wanted 120% of the judgment, or more than $557 million. Trump's company would still need to have cash left over to run the business, his attorneys have noted.

Lawyers for James maintained in a filing Wednesday that Trump could explore other options. Among the state's suggestions: dividing the total among multiple bonds from different underwriters, or letting a court hold some of the former president's real estate empire while he appeals.

Robert, Trump's attorney, said in his letter Thursday that the divide-and-bond strategy wouldn't make a difference because it still would require $557 million in liquid assets as collateral. Having a court hold real estate during the appeal is “impractical and unjust” and essentially amounts to what a court-appointed monitor already has been doing, Robert wrote.

Making Trump cover the judgment in full while he appeals “would cause irreparable harm,” Robert added.

Trump called the bond requirement “crazy,” in all capital letters, in a post Wednesday on his Truth Social platform.

“If I sold assets, and then won the appeal, the assets would be forever gone," he wrote.

Meanwhile, Engoron issued an order that expands the monitor's oversight of Trump's company. Notably, the company must now tell the watchdog about any efforts to get bonds.

The monitor, a retired federal judge, has been keeping tabs on the company's financial statements, asset valuations and other doings since 2022. Engoron's ruling last month previewed plans for an “enhanced” role for her.

Messages seeking comment on the monitor's new purview were sent to Trump's lawyers and to the attorney general's office.

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Associated Press writer Michael R. Sisak contributed.