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Trump Might Be Too Broke for a $175 Million Bond, Too

And that would be doubly embarrassing for him.

Trump at a press conference in New York City
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images
Trump at a press conference in New York City on Monday

A New York appeals court on Monday reduced the $454 million that former President Donald Trump was required to put up while he appeals his civil fraud case. Now Trump must put up, by April 4, a mere $175 million. The trouble is, he may not get a bond for that amount, either. Should that happen, this act of judicial mercy will end up feeling to Trump like a curse.

The stay deprives Trump of the only argument on which he was gaining any traction at all—that the amount the court required him to put up was excessively high. Four hundred and fifty-four million was indeed an unusually large judgment against a private corporation or individual. (The distinction between Trump and the Trump Organization is paper-thin.) Monday’s appeals court decision doesn’t reduce that judgment, as New York State Attorney General Letitia James pointed out in a written statement. But it does dramatically reduce the amount Trump needs to turn over to the state while he pursues his appeal. It also gives us some hint that the appeals court may reduce Judge Arthur Engoron’s $454 million judgment to, well, $175 million.

Before the stay, Trump was quite literally comparing his financial situation to the crucifixion of Jesus Christ. In a posting early Monday morning on Truth Social, he quoted this message from a supporter: “It’s ironic that Christ walked through His greatest persecution the very week they are stealing your property from you.” My own (less blasphemous) view was that, yes, Trump was being singled out for harsh punishment by Judge Engoron, but that this was appropriate because Trump insists on making himself an exception to every rule. When finally matters escalate and Trump is called to account, he always whines that he’s being treated worse than others. It’s no more unusual to fine Trump $454 million than it is to send the FBI to collect documents that Trump refused to turn over to the National Archives. Such actions don’t occur in a vacuum. Trump makes them happen.

In a press conference after the stay, Trump continued to attack Engoron and James, but he had kind words for the appeals panel. “We were gratified by the professionalism of the opinion today,” Trump said. He also seemed to suggest that he might put up the $175 million in cash. “I have a lot of cash,” he said, and “I don’t need to borrow money.” But Trump hedged his bets in a post on Truth Social, saying, “We will abide by the decision of the Appellate Division, and post either a bond, equivalent securities, or cash.”

I’ll be very surprised if Trump puts up his own cash, not least because the amount may represent as much as half of his liquid holdings. More likely he’ll go back to his bond brokers. I asked Mark Levinson, a bond broker with Brunswick Companies (and my new best friend) about the revised $175 million target. “That’s still a very large number,” Levinson said, for a private appeal bond (as opposed to an appeal bond for a publicly traded company). But it’s “probably manageable” for Trump, Levinson said. “I’d be surprised if he didn’t get it.”

But Levinson presumes a degree of rationality in Trump that may not exist. Trump may or may not have $175 million in securities above and beyond the $91 million in a Schwab brokerage account that he reportedly used to collateralize a bond backed by Chubb in the E. Jean Carroll case. We know Trump has a lot of equity in Truth Social, which he just took public, but he’s barred for six months from using that as collateral. And even if Trump possesses additional liquid investments, he’ll be reluctant to put them up as collateral for the same reason that surety firms prefer collateral in the form of cash and securities to collateral in the form of real estate: It’s much easier to grab in the event that Trump loses his appeal. Which, let’s face it, is likelier than not.

What surety firm would step forward to cover a $175 million bond for Trump? Levinson told me he thinks it will be Chubb. We know (from Trump’s legal team) that Chubb tried very hard to put together a deal on the $454 million, finally giving up because the deal depended on using real estate as collateral. But we also know that Chubb caught a lot of flak for underwriting Trump’s $91 million Carroll bond, and that Chubb’s chief executive, Evan Greenberg, ended up writing a letter to investors and employees explaining why it would lend that much money to a man so very famous for stiffing his creditors. Greenberg’s rationale was not very clear, raising suspicions that he expects some unsavory return from a future President Trump. Does Greenberg want to invite even more inquiries into Chubb’s possible motives?

At the press conference, Trump seemed not to have given up on the idea that his real estate holdings could be used as collateral on the $175 million. “Most buildings, I have no debt,” Trump said. “Most clubs, I have no debt.” As with many things that Trump says, any relationship these assertions bear to the truth would be mere coincidence. Trump also went on about the value of his “brand,” even going so far as to assert that “I became president because of the brand.” Was Trump trying to suggest that the Oval Office might be leveraged to compensate whatever fool lends him $175 million? Possibly so. In the meantime, New York’s appeals court sets Trump up for possible humiliation three days after Easter. Robbed of his crown of thorns, Trump still may not come up with the cash. If that happens, he won’t be the Messiah. Just a deadbeat.