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Civil Judgments Sting as Criminal Cases Slow

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Civil Judgments Sting as Criminal Cases Slow

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For all the attention paid to Donald Trump’s likely upcoming criminal trial in Manhattan, he’s facing a far more urgent threat in coming days: the prospect that he won’t be able to post a nearly half-billion-dollar bond in the New York civil fraud case against him and his company.

Trump’s lawyers this week revealed in a court filing that the Trump Organization had approached roughly 30 companies in an effort to secure the huge bond, but that none would underwrite one so large without having the former president pledge a lot of cash. At the moment, Trump lacks the liquidity to secure a bond that big.

The bond would prevent the attorney general, Letitia James, from immediately collecting on a $454 million judgment while he appeals the case, in which a judge found that he had fraudulently inflated his net worth. It’s possible that a higher court could pause the judgment or reduce the size of the bond, but, if that doesn’t happen, Trump is facing difficult options.

The financial squeeze on Trump underscores how, even as he faces four criminal trials that are moving ahead slowly, the civil cases against him are already imposing substantial pressure on him. He has had to post a separate $91.6 million bond in a defamation case he recently lost to the writer E. Jean Carroll. And this week, his lawyers asked for a delay in civil cases brought against him in federal court in Washington seeking to hold him accountable for the violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

He could get welcome financial news in coming days through a complex transaction in which his social media company, Truth Social, will go public, its share price having been bid up by Trump supporters. But it is not clear that his stake in the social media company can easily or quickly be turned into cash. And the cash crisis isn’t just personal. His campaign fund-raising is running well behind that of President Biden.

What’s more, the giant judgment hanging over his head as he runs again for the country’s highest office has created the possibility that the transactional former president could entangle himself in ethical trouble while hunting after money, said Richard Painter, a law professor at the University of Minnesota who served as the chief ethics lawyer for President George W. Bush.

“And with what he owes, it’s going to be increasingly tempting for him to increase his revenue through making deals with foreign governments,” said Painter, who has often criticized Trump. “That could be a serious problem.”

Trump has never drawn a line between his public and private role. After his election, he said he was turning over his business to his two adult sons, and they halted new foreign deals while he was president, but he never put the holdings into a blind trust. The hotel he owned in Washington did substantial business during his presidency with foreign governments and others who had a stake in policy and politics. He refused to release his tax returns.

Just as he prepared to become a presidential candidate for a third time in November 2022, he signed a new real estate deal in Oman, helped along by the Saudis, who also put $2 billion into an investment fund set up by his son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

In the New York civil case, James, the attorney general, has expressed skepticism that Trump truly has exhausted his options to post the bond.

The immediate backdrop for Trump’s financial squeeze is the first of the criminal trials he’s facing, this one on charges brought by prosecutors in Manhattan of falsifying business records to cover up hush money paid to a porn star during the 2016 campaign. That case, despite a recent delay, could start next month; the judge is likely to make a decision on timing after a hearing on Monday.

Not all of Trump’s civil cases, however, have been moving ahead as quickly as those in New York. In seeking the delay this week in the half-dozen civil lawsuits brought against him in Washington stemming from the Jan. 6 riot, his lawyers argued that the proceedings should wait until after his federal criminal trial connected to many of the same events.

In requesting the delay, Trump’s lawyers said it would be unfair to force him to defend himself against the civil suits right now because, in so doing, he might reveal his defense strategy against the criminal indictment, which was filed by the special counsel, Jack Smith.

If the judge overseeing the lawsuits grants Trump’s stay, it’s not clear when the cases might resume. The Jan. 6-related criminal case itself has been on hold for months as a series of courts have considered Trump’s attempts to kill the charges with a broad claim of executive immunity. The Supreme Court is poised to hear arguments on Trump’s immunity claim on April 25 and could issue a ruling by June, handing the case back to the trial judge.


We’re asking readers what they’d like to know about the Trump cases: the charges, the procedure, the important players or anything else. You can send us your question by filling out this form.

Given the wide range of emotions surrounding Trump, how realistic is the chance to seat an objective jury. Wouldn’t a hung jury benefit Trump? — Gregory Richmond, Chesterfield, Ind.

Alan: Picking a jury for any of Trump’s trials will no doubt be a long and challenging process given not only that people have strong opinions about him, but also because the publicity surrounding the proceedings will be ubiquitous. But the process of jury selection will focus on whether potential jurors can set the noise aside and consider the case fairly. Trump would surely call any case ending in a hung jury a victory, but prosecutors could always seek to try him again.


Trump is at the center of at least four separate criminal investigations, at both the state and federal levels, into matters related to his business and political careers. Here is where each case currently stands.

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