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What happens if Trump can't pay the $454 million bond in his New York fraud case?


What happens if Donald Trump cannot pay the $454 million bond in his New York fraud case? A judge ordered the former president to pay up after finding his company inflated its value to get better rates on bank loans. Next Monday is the deadline to pay the bond, and Trump's lawyers say they tried but couldn't raise the cash needed. We wanted to hear more about the legal options for both sides, so we called Adam Pollock. He's a former assistant attorney general in New York, and he's with us now. Good morning.

ADAM POLLOCK: Good morning, Michel.

MARTIN: So if you take the Trump team at its word that they don't have the cash, what are the options for New York Attorney General Letitia James to get Trump to pay?

POLLOCK: She can begin enforcement of the judgment immediately. She has offered a 30-day grace period, which is set to expire next week, but she can immediately begin enforcement. And under the law in New York, there's a bunch of devices that she can use to enforce the judgment. A couple of them come to mind. One is a restraining notice. She can serve, herself as an attorney, a restraining notice to Trump that says don't use any money until you pay us. Don't spend any money. And for example, he goes on TV and is spending money. He's flying his private jet around. It costs me maybe $70 to fill up at the pump these days, which seems like a lot, but the private jet probably costs $20,000 to fill up with gas, and that's spending money in an inappropriate way when he owes $455 million to the people of the state of New York.

The restraining notice would say, don't spend money. Don't fill up your jet at the pump until you pay the state of New York or you will be held in contempt of court. And my impression is that Justice Engoron, the judge here in New York, would be quick to hold him in contempt of court. So that's one example of a means that she can use to enforce the judgment.

MARTIN: Is it possible that she could grant another extension or even lower the amount?

POLLOCK: She could, but to what end? The court has decided that he has owed $455 million. Of course, like any litigant, she could settle. If he wanted to write a check to New York today for 250 million, I would presume that the office would consider that carefully. But short of that, there's no reason to proactively offer to lower the amount.

MARTIN: So in a way, she'd be, like, negotiating against herself, I guess.

POLLOCK: That's right. When she has a bunch of tools to go into banks, drain his accounts, she has - the entire trial was effectively a roadmap to his financial assets. She can now send out a sheriff or a marshal of the city of New York to go walk into a financial institution holding what's known as an execution, and empty his bank account short of $3,000, which is the statutory floor.

MARTIN: Interesting. So let me wheel it around. Mr. Trump's lawyers argue that a bond of this size is rarely, if ever, seen, and that fines of this size are usually reserved for large public companies. That's one reason I raised the issue of the amount. He says that these are usually reserved for large public companies, not individuals or privately held businesses. Is this accurate, and could this be grounds for appeal?

POLLOCK: Look, this is an extraordinary sized judgment because this is an extraordinary case. He is right. Most cases don't end in a $450 million judgment. But here, the court found that there was an extraordinary fraud and levied an extraordinary result - a $450 million judgment. So, yes, it is rare. Most cases don't end in a $450 million judgment, but this isn't most cases.

MARTIN: So Mr. Trump's lawyers also say that if he's forced to do a quick fire sale of his properties, it could lead to losses that he couldn't get back, even if he is eventually found not guilty. Is that a fair concern?

POLLOCK: This is a concern that could be raised by every defendant - for any defendant. Perhaps for one person, $450 is a large amount that they were found liable for. And for the next defendant, it could be $450,000. But in Albany, our legislature has decided that if you want to bond an appeal, you have to put up the full amount. Anybody can appeal. You don't have to file a bond to appeal. But if you want to bond the appeal, stop enforcement of the judgment, you have to put up the full amount. That's what the law says, And that's a policy decision that Albany has made.

MARTIN: Very quickly, do you care to hazard a prediction? What do you think will happen?

POLLOCK: I think that the appellate court should rule that he has to bond the full amount, and he has said that he can't, that he doesn't have $450 million in cash. But I think that he - if he wants to stave off enforcement, he needs to find a way to raise it and quickly.

MARTIN: That is Adam Pollock. He's a former assistant attorney general in New York. Mr. Pollock, thank you so much.

POLLOCK: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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