Trump Still Has Money Problems After NY Appeals Court Ruling

Former President Trump Speaks To The Media After Court Appearance In Hush Money Case

Photo: Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Let’s state the obvious: A New York appellate court’s decision on Monday to reduce Donald Trump’s bond to $175 million from $454 million — a ruling that cleared the way for his appeal against the civil fraud judgment against him to proceed — gives the ex-president exactly the kind of breathing room he needed to stave off financial disaster. The new number isn’t quite the $100 million that Trump had asked for, but the threat of Attorney General Letitia James seizing his buildings and his golf courses — his “babies,” as he calls them — has, for the moment, been neutralized. Trump may still be on the hook for the full amount, and that amount may balloon even more with interest charges, but this decision was the best possible outcome among scenarios that ranged from embarrassing (fire sales) to nearly unfathomable (bankruptcy). When the ruling came down, I happened to be sitting in a room with two former prosecutors who were amazed by the decision. “He keeps getting away with this bullshit,” one of them told me.

But the bond payment was never going to be Trump’s only financial problem in 2024. He’s facing four criminal trials and is simultaneously running a presidential campaign, so expenses will add up. And the appellate court’s reprieve changed nothing about a central fact of Trump’s wealth — that the vast majority of it is tied up in difficult-to-sell real estate, which he doesn’t want to part with anyway. What is clear is that his money is rapidly dwindling. This year, Trump has already posted $91 million for twice defaming E. Jean Carroll. Add that to the remaining bond for the civil fraud case, and Trump will have to put up about $300 million over the span of three months. (Surety companies typically require 120 percent to post bond, which raises the collateral he needs to $210 million for appealing the civil fraud case.) Last week, Trump claimed that he had about $500 million in cash on hand. If true, posting bond would wipe out more than half of his war chest. Trump seemed to get a lifeline last week, when he acquired $3.3 billion in stock for his newly public social network Truth Social. This roughly doubles his net worth on paper, but the new windfall is locked up until the end of September. (Truth Social’s board can waive those restrictions, but so far it has not announced that it will do so.) And as Bloomberg notes, Truth Social’s stock has become a way for investors to bet on Trump’s odds of winning the November election, making it more of a volatile meme stock than a reliable source of money.

Still, it’s possible this reprieve makes all the difference for Trump. Money has a time value — that is, any amount of cash is worth more now than it would be if it were spent at some future point. This is why we have interest: It’s the cost of the privilege to delay paying off a credit card, or a mortgage, or, in Trump’s case, an appeal bond. And right now, the calendar is decidedly shaping up in Trump’s favor. The only one of his criminal trials that’s a sure thing to take place this year is the New York hush-money case, which will go forward on April 15. It could be about six months before a New York appellate court hears his appeal against February’s civil fraud decision, in which Judge Arthur F. Engoron found that Trump had inflated the value of his holdings. (The key question: whether Trump defrauded Deutsche Bank out of $169 million in loans, even though the lender said it didn’t rely on his falsified financial-disclosure forms.) By that point, even if he loses, he could have unfettered access to his Truth Social stake and start selling that off — keeping his real-estate holdings intact. And since his Mar-a-Lago club generates about $41 million a year in revenue, it’s likely that he’ll be able to keep himself afloat.

But warning signs still abound. Trump’s filing last week made it clear that nobody wanted to take the risk to front him the money. If he had all this cash on hand or available before the end of the year, and his legal issues put off until next year, how could it be that nobody would bet on him? And if he had all this money to pay his lawyers, why is he getting donors to pay his bills? It is very possible that there is less than meets the eye right now to Trump’s financial position. The revenue from Mar-a-Lago and his other golf clubs isn’t profit, and diverting that money might not be feasible. And the store of Truth Social money is hardly an easy fix — if Trump, as the majority shareholder, had to sell off his position, other shareholders would be incentivized to flee before he dumps too much of the stock in the market.

One overlooked aspect of the appellate court’s decision to lower the bond payment is that $175 million is small enough of a payment to keep Trump from declaring bankruptcy — and just large enough to bleed him out. Trump has struggled to raise money this year for his presidential campaign. The last election cost $14 billion in total spending by all candidates. At some point, if his donors don’t come through, he’ll have to finance the gap himself just to run his campaign. It’s possible he can pull this off more or less unscathed, but it looks like if he wants to make it through November, he’s going to have to sell something big, anyway — and to do it soon.

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