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Trump's big bond deadline

(SOUNDBITE OF MONTAGE)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) We love Trump. We love Trump.

DONALD TRUMP: This is a persecution.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: He actually just stormed out of the courtroom.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

SCOTT DETROW, HOST:

It's time for Trump's Trials, our weekly look at all of the legal cases former President Donald Trump is facing, all while running for president again. This week, we want to dive into that nearly half-a-billion-dollar bond that is coming due for Trump on Monday. That penalty is from the New York civil fraud trial that concluded last month. This, again, is the case where the judge ruled that Trump had committed fraud and inflated the value of his assets over the years in order to secure better loans for his company.

To understand what is at stake for Trump, I spoke with NPR's senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro, as well as University of Baltimore law professor Kim Wehle. And I started by asking Kim what Trump's options are.

KIM WEHLE: Well, Trump needs to, under New York law, secure a bond in order to avoid having to pay the full judgment during an appeal. He can appeal, but without the bond or without putting in some kind of escrow, the full amount of the judgment he has to actually pay up pending resolution of the appeal. So this process is about being able to basically put everything on hold while he asks the appeals court in New York to reverse the underlying judgment.

DETROW: And, Domenico, we had a moment of Trump, the candidate and political figure, kind of undermining his own legal team, where his lawyers claimed in a filing he doesn't have the cash. He's having a hard time coming up with the bonds. And then he posts on his social media platform - through hard work, talent and luck, I currently have almost $500 million in cash.

DOMENICO MONTANARO, BYLINE: Same.

DETROW: Yeah.

(LAUGHTER)

MONTANARO: Sometimes it's through hard work, sometimes it's not. But, you know, I mean, the fact is Trump also has this merger and public offering for Truth Social, which he claims is could be worth some 3, $3.5 billion, which, by the way, is more than all of what he's apparently worth, according to Forbes.

DETROW: Kim, he's claiming - his team is claiming they can't come up with the money. They can't come up with the bond. You know, there's certainly a long history of him not paying people back when they loan him money. So you can see why he might have a hard time finding a half-billion dollars. But what happens next? Does the state scrutinize whether they're telling the truth when it comes to that? Do they look at seizing properties? Like, how does this generally work?

WEHLE: If this were to move forward, you know, Letitia James could, you know, start getting law enforcement to start seizing assets. And, you know, this isn't my act. You know, Domenico would know more about this. But politically, that might be good for Trump to have, you know, TV footage of James trying to get, you know, the judgment actually enforced with money. I mean, a judgment's just a piece of paper. It's only so good as someone actually is willing to pay up. So that's essentially the step she would take, and given he has properties all over the world with complex holdings, it could be a mess to untangle.

DETROW: Domenico, do you think that's true?

MONTANARO: I'm not sure. I mean, I think that we've talked a lot before about how Trump is viewed very differently among Republicans as he is among independents in a general election. And, you know, there's an argument to be made that, you know, he can continue to say that he can raise money because he can claim victimhood. And look. It's on TV. They're coming after my properties.

At the same time, if this is spotlighted, it's on camera, people then are renewing an interest and asking questions about, why is the state of New York, for example, going and trying to seize something that looks like Versailles in his Seven Springs estate in Westchester County, N.Y.? You know, there could also be a class warfare argument that Democrats can make about how Trump is rightfully getting what he deserves.

You know, people are so dug in. It's like we're fighting World War I sort of trench warfare when it comes to views of Trump, because, you know, we're going to have a very long general election here, 7 1/2 months to go until this election. And you're really talking about moving people at the margins.

DETROW: Yeah. Yeah. And just - we've - a lot of attention on that, those Westchester County estates. James has talked a lot about 40 Wall Street, his Lower Manhattan property, other options as well. And just to fill it out, I mean, Elise Stefanik, who's a key ally these days of Donald Trump in Congress and somebody who seems to be on the shortlist for vice president, puts out a statement the other day saying, the weaponization against Joe Biden's political opponent, President Donald Trump, is an absolutely unprecedented form of election interference. It is fundamentally un-American. It goes on.

So, like, that's how these possible seizures would be framed. Did you see anything that happened this week that could fundamentally change either these criminal cases or the presidential election?

WEHLE: Well, we didn't get a chance to talk about Mar-a-Lago. But I - the rulings that are happening down there with Judge Aileen Cannon relating to whether the Espionage Act is a legitimate charge, one of the charges in that case...

DETROW: Is the documents case.

WEHLE: ...And the double jeopardy clause, that could end up killing that case, yes.

DETROW: Yeah. Yes, we've we've focused on that lately. We will certainly come back to that very soon. That is a good point. A lot of questions about about what Judge Cannon is doing and how she is thinking about this case. Domenico, what about you?

MONTANARO: Well, I really think that this idea of what gets seized, if anything gets seized, is the thing that I'm really paying attention to because I do think that there is something to the imagery of having a attorney general going and seizing properties, if that's the case, and Trump having his back against the wall. And we know when Trump has his back against the wall, he's not somebody who cowers. He's somebody who sort of fires back, so...

DETROW: Or flails.

MONTANARO: Right. And what does that mean, right? Because politically, that'll certainly have lots and lots of ramifications like a snowball sort of going downhill. And it'll be - I'm really looking to see how that winds up playing out and, you know, whether or not there winds up being a case that starts in late April, as we kind of expect.

DETROW: Yeah. That's senior political editor and correspondent Domenico Montanaro. Thank you so much.

MONTANARO: Thank you.

DETROW: Also joined by Kim Wehle, constitutional law expert from the University of Baltimore. Thanks, Kim.

WEHLE: 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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