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Trump lawyers say he's prepared to post $100-million bond while appealing staggering fraud penalty

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NEW YORK -

Donald Trump's lawyers told a New York appellate court Wednesday that he's prepared to post a US$100-million bond to halt collection of his staggering civil fraud penalty, arguing that provisions of the verdict make it impossible for the former U.S. president to secure a bond for the full amount.

Trump's lawyers floated the offer in court papers asking the state's mid-level appeals court for an order preventing New York Attorney General Letitia James' office from enforcing the $454-million judgment while his appeal plays out. Trump would have to post the full amount to pause collection automatically.

The appeals court was expected to hear arguments at an emergency hearing Wednesday.

Trump's lawyers argued that a provision in Judge Arthur Engoron's Feb. 16 ruling banning Trump, his company, and co-defendants from obtaining loans from New York banks for three years prevents them from obtaining a bond covering the full judgment. In all, Trump and his co-defendants owe more than $465 million.

"The exorbitant and punitive amount of the judgment coupled with an unlawful and unconstitutional blanket prohibition on lending transactions would make it impossible to secure and post a complete bond," Trump lawyers Clifford Robert, Alina Habba and Michael Farina wrote.

James' office opposes Trump's plan, saying his lawyers have all but conceded he has "insufficient liquid assets to satisfy the judgment."

"These are precisely the circumstances for which a full bond or deposit is necessary," Senior Assistant Solicitor General Dennis Fan wrote, saying Trump's offer would leave James' office and the state "with substantial shortfalls" if the verdict is upheld.

"A prevailing plaintiff is entitled to have her award secured, and defendants have never demonstrated that Mr. Trump's liquid assets could satisfy the full amount of the judgment," Fan wrote.

James, a Democrat, has said that she will seek to seize some of Trump's assets if he's unable to pay the judgment.

Engoron found that Trump, his company and top executives, including his sons Eric and Donald Trump Jr., schemed for years to deceive banks and insurers by inflating his wealth on financial statements used to secure loans and make deals.

Among other penalties, the judge put strict limitations on the ability of Trump's company, the Trump Organization, to do business. Paperwork making the judgment official was filed on Feb. 23. That started a 30-day window for Trump to pay up or file an appeal and seek a stay.

Also Wednesday, white powder was found in an envelope addressed to Engoron at his Manhattan courthouse, the latest security scare involving the judge. Police said the substance fell onto a court officer's pants when the officer opened the envelope around 9:30 a.m. No injuries were reported and Engoron was not harmed. Analysis of the substance indicated it was not harmful.

In January, hours before closing arguments in the case, authorities responded to a bomb threat at the judge's home. Engoron's chambers have reported hundreds of harassing and threatening calls, emails, letters and packages since the start of Trump's trial in October.

Trump filed his appeal on Monday. His lawyers are asking the Appellate Division of the state's trial court to decide whether Engoron "committed errors of law and/or fact" and whether he abused his discretion or "acted in excess" of his jurisdiction.

Trump wasn't required to pay his penalty or post a bond in order to appeal, and filing the appeal did not automatically halt enforcement of the judgment.

The Republican presidential front-runner has until March 25 to secure a stay, a legal mechanism pausing collection while he appeals.

Trump would receive an automatic stay if he were to put up money, assets or an appeal bond covering what he owes. He also had the option, which he's now exercising, to ask the appeals court to grant a stay with a bond for a lower amount.

Trump lawyers said Trump's vast real estate assets and oversight mandated by Engoron's ruling, including supervision of his company by an independent monitor, "would alone be sufficient to adequately secure any judgment affirmed."

The $100 million bond, they said, "would simply serve as further security."

Trump, the leading candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, maintains that he is worth several billion dollars and testified last year that he had about $400 million in cash, in addition to properties and other investments.

In all, Trump has at least $543.4 million in personal legal liabilities from Engoron's ruling and two other civil court judgments in the last year.

In January, a jury ordered Trump to pay $83.3 million to writer E. Jean Carroll for defaming her after she accused him in 2019 of sexually assaulting her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s. That's on top of the $5 million a jury awarded Carroll in a related trial last year.

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