Trump’s legal debts top a half-billion dollars. Will he have to pay?


NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump’s legal debts might now exceed a half-billion dollars.

A New York judge ordered Trump and his companies Friday to pay $355 million in fines, plus interest, after ruling that he had manipulated his net worth in financial statements.

The stiff penalty comes just weeks after Trump was ordered to pay $83.3 million to the writer E. Jean Carroll for damaging her reputation after she accused him of sexual assault. A separate jury last year awarded Carroll $5 million from Trump for sexual abuse and defamation.

Add interest payments on top of that and the judgments could deal a staggering blow to the personal fortune that remains core to Trump’s political appeal. He has adamantly denied wrongdoing and pledged to appeal, a process that could take months or even years.

In the meantime, here’s what we know about what Trump owes, whether he’ll have to pay up, and what comes next:

How much money does Trump owe now?

The verdict in the civil fraud trial requires Trump to pay interest on some of the deal profits he has been ordered to give up. New York Attorney General Letitia James, who brought the case, said the interest payments totaled $99 million and would “continue to increase every single day until it is paid.”

Between Friday’s ruling and the two judgments in Carroll’s case, Trump would be on the hook for about $542 million in legal judgments.

Trump owes another $110,000 for refusing to comply with a subpoena in the civil fraud case and $15,000 for repeatedly disparaging the judge’s law clerk in violation of a gag order. As part of Friday’s ruling, the judge also ordered both of Trump’s sons to pay $4 million apiece.

Trump’s court-ordered debts don’t end there. Last month, he was ordered to pay nearly $400,000 in legal fees to The New York Times after suing the newspaper unsuccessfully. He is currently appealing a judgment of $938,000 against him and his attorney for filing what a judge described as a “frivolous” lawsuit against Hillary Clinton.

Can he get any of these judgments reduced?

It’s not uncommon for the size of judgments, particularly high-dollar amounts, to be reduced on appeals.

The appeal in Trump’s civil fraud case will go before an intermediate-level court first. If it returns an unfavorable ruling, Trump could try to get the case taken up by New York’s top appellate court, though legal experts say that is unlikely.

How quickly does Trump have to pay?

Trump has already deposited $5 million owed to Carroll for the first defamation case into a court-controlled account, along with an additional $500,000 in interest required by New York law. Carroll will not have access to the funds until the appeals process plays out.

He may soon be forced to do the same for the $83.3 million judgment in the second Carroll verdict. Alternatively, he could secure a bond and pay only a portion up front — though that option would come with interest and fees and likely require some form of collateral. Trump would have to find a financial institution willing to front him the money.

In the civil fraud case, it will be up to the courts to decide how much Trump must put up as he mounts his appeal. And he may be required to pay the full sum immediately after the appellate court rules, which could come as soon as this summer, according to University of Michigan law professor Will Thomas.

“New York’s judicial system has shown a willingness to move quickly on some of these Trump issues,” Thomas said. “When we hear from the first appellate court, that’s a point where money is almost certainly going to change hands.”

Can Trump afford to pay?

Trump has claimed he’s worth over $10 billion. Most estimates, including an assessment by the New York attorney general, put that figure closer to $2 billion.

In his 2021 statement of financial condition, Trump said he had just under $300 million in “cash and cash equivalents.” He has since made a number of sales, including his New York golf course and his Washington, D.C., hotel, and may also soon get a windfall when his social media company, Truth Social, goes public.

But even with those income streams, it’s unclear whether Trump and his family members have enough cash on hand to pay all the money they now owe.

Could he use campaign contributions — or PAC money — to pay?

Federal election law prohibits the use of campaign funds for personal use. But the rules are far murkier when it comes to tapping political action committees — or PACs — for a candidate’s expenses.

Over the last two years, Trump’s Save America political action committee, his presidential campaign and his other fundraising organizations have devoted $76.7 million to legal fees. Campaign finance experts expect Trump will try to spend PAC money to defray the cost of his judgments in some way.

“The likelihood of the Federal Election Commission in its current configuration pursuing these violations is not terribly great,” said Daniel Weiner, director of the Brennan Center’s Elections and Government Program.

Can he or his businesses declare bankruptcy?

Under the judge’s ruling Friday, Trump would still be liable to pay even if the Trump Organization declares bankruptcy. If Trump personally declared bankruptcy, the enforcement of the judgment against him would be paused. But political commenters say such a drastic step is unlikely.

Despite the fact that several of his previous companies have gone bankrupt, Trump has repeatedly bragged about the fact that he has never, personally, declared bankruptcy.

What if Trump simply refuses to pay the money?

Legally, Trump would face the same consequences as any American refusing to pay a legal judgment, including the possibility of having his assets seized and his wages garnished.

“The president is not a king and the president’s assets are not sacrosanct just because he happened to be the president,” Weiner said.

On Friday, the judge overseeing Trump’s civil fraud case appointed an additional monitor to oversee the Trump Organization’s finances, finding they could not be trusted to follow the law. In the event that Trump refused to hand over payments, the courts would have additional discretion to go after Trump and his businesses.

“They have a huge amount of power particularly for someone like Trump who has physical assets inside the state,” Thomas, the law professor, said. “The court might say we’re going to freeze your bank account. Or even worse, they could say, ’We’re seizing Trump Tower and we’re putting it up for sale.'”

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