Fraud trial Trump gets more time for million-dollar fine

A momentous rollercoaster court day for Donald Trump: an appeals court gives him more time to pay a fine worth millions. In addition, another process will start in a few weeks.

An appeals court has given former US President Donald Trump more time to pay a million-dollar fine from a fraud trial and reduced the bail amount due. The court in New York announced that Trump would now have to provide a guarantee for $175 million (around 160 million euros) within ten days. Otherwise, Trump would have had to deposit a guarantee for almost half a billion US dollars.

Just a few minutes later, a judge at another New York court decided that a criminal trial against Trump in connection with hush money payments to a porn actress should begin on April 15th – around three weeks later than originally planned. There has never been a criminal trial against a former president in US history.

Within a very short space of time, Trump was confronted with two momentous court decisions. While the appeals court's decision represents a success and relief for Trump, the scheduling of the criminal trial represents a defeat for the ex-president. Trump wants to be re-elected US President in November and is trying to use all means possible to delay all trials against him. His lawyers had pleaded for this criminal trial to be postponed or even abandoned altogether. The process was “election interference” and “voter intimidation” and he would appeal the decision, Trump said afterwards, according to consistent US media reports.

Millions in Trump's fraud trial

Trump was sentenced in February to a fine of more than $350 million in a fraud trial. With interest, the total amount due now amounts to more than 450 million US dollars (around 420 million euros). New York Attorney General Letitia James gave Trump 30 days to post bail after Judge Arthur Engoron's decision. That deadline expired on Monday.

Until recently, it was unclear whether Trump would be able to meet the deadline. The ex-president had emphasized that he had the money, but at the same time his lawyers had explained that despite great efforts and negotiations with around 30 companies, they had initially not been able to get a guarantee for this sum. If the bail payment had not come on time, the judiciary could have taken the first steps on Monday to seize Trump's properties or freeze accounts.

With the appeals court's decision – assuming Trump submits the $175 million bond on time – payment of the entire fine would be suspended until the appeal against Judge Engoron's decision is decided. Trump and his sons are therefore allowed to run companies in New York state again – at least for the time being. In principle, however, the punishment still exists, said Attorney General James. “Donald Trump still has to answer for his breathtaking fraud.”

The hush money trial is scheduled to begin in mid-April

According to consistent US media reports, Trump said that he very much respects the appeals court's decision and will be able to submit the bond during a short break in the hearing on his hush money criminal trial, at which the ex-president was personally present. At the hearing, Judge Juan Merchan determined that jury selection for the trial will now begin on April 15.

In the case, the judge had briefly postponed the trial originally scheduled to begin today in mid-March by 30 days after the defense and prosecution had requested a delay. The defense and prosecution had wanted more time to examine new evidence. Judge Merchan now rejected these arguments.

The case primarily revolves around a hush money payment of $130,000 to the porn actress Stormy Daniels – the money flowed in 2016 shortly before Trump was elected president. She had claimed that she had had sex with him. Trump denies an affair, but does not deny that money was flowed. Non-disclosure agreements between two parties are not illegal. However, Trump is accused of illegally recording the payments, trying to conceal them illegally and thereby trying to cover up other violations of the law. The ex-president has pleaded not guilty.

A total of four criminal trials are currently being prepared against Trump, including for attempted election fraud and taking secret government documents. In some cases, Trump and his lawyers have been able to successfully block or at least delay them. The hush money trial involves less serious allegations than the other cases, but experts say it is the trial that could possibly be completed first. Trump denies all allegations against him and sees himself as a victim of a politically motivated justice system.