US justice system lowers Trump's bail significantly – but first criminal trial in April

The New York judiciary has significantly eased the financial pressure on former President Donald Trump following his conviction for business fraud. An appeals court on Monday significantly reduced his bail amount from about $454 million to $175 million. In another case, the pressure on Trump remains unchanged: criminal proceedings against him in a hush money affair are scheduled to begin on April 15th.

The appeals court not only ordered the bail amount to be significantly reduced, but also gave Trump an additional ten days to provide the security, beyond the previous deadline of this Monday. The 77-year-old immediately announced that he would fulfill the conditions: “I deeply respect the court's decision and will deposit the $175 million in cash, bonds or guarantees,” he said.

For Trump, the appeals court's decision is an important victory: the originally required security deposit of $454 million had posed massive problems for him. His lawyers explained a few days ago that their client was unable to obtain guarantees of this amount from insurers.

The positive news from the appeals court reached the likely Republican presidential nominee again while he was in New York attending a court hearing on another case. At issue was the criminal charge brought against him for allegedly falsifying business documents to disguise a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels.

However, this hearing did not bring the ex-president the result he was hoping for: Judge Juan Merchan decided that the trial should begin on April 15 with jury selection. This is just three weeks later than the trial originally scheduled to begin this Monday. In mid-March, the public prosecutor's office agreed to a “brief adjournment” so that Trump's lawyers could examine new documents in the case. However, Trump's lawyers had requested a postponement of at least 90 days.

The upcoming trial has a historical dimension: If the new date remains, the first criminal trial against an ex-president in US history will begin in three weeks. After Monday's court hearing, Trump complained that it was “not fair” that the trial would take place in the middle of the election campaign.

In addition to the proceedings in connection with the hush money affair, there are three other criminal charges pending against the ex-president with much more serious allegations: These concern his attempts to subsequently overturn his 2020 election defeat against current President Joe Biden, as well as his taking with him secret government documents to his private residence in Florida. It is currently unclear when these processes could begin.

Trump is relying on delaying tactics in his legal disputes in order to postpone verdicts if possible until after the presidential election in November, in which he is expected to run again for the Republicans against the Democrat Biden.

The proceedings surrounding the hush money affair will now become a major media spectacle in the middle of the election campaign. So far, Trump has skillfully portrayed himself as a victim of a politically controlled judicial system. On Monday he again spoke of “election interference” by the judiciary.

The upcoming trial relates to a $130,000 hush money that Trump's former lawyer Michael Cohen paid to Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election. According to her own account, she had had an affair with Trump, which he denied. The hush money was not illegal in itself, but Trump is accused of concealing it by forging business documents.

Trump has already been convicted in several civil lawsuits – in February, a fine of around $355 million plus interest was imposed on him in New York for embellishing business figures. This is in addition to the approximately $454 million that the judiciary had originally demanded from him as security.

Trump was found guilty of artificially inflating the assets of his real estate empire for years in order to obtain favorable conditions from banks and insurance companies. He did lodge an appeal. But he has to provide security so that an appeal process can take place.

The revelation by his lawyers that he was unable to raise the $454 million he was originally asking for was an embarrassment for Trump, who has always portrayed himself as a brilliant businessman. The background is that the majority of his assets are tied up in real estate, so he does not have any cash available.

Trump therefore even faced the risk that the public prosecutor would block his accounts or confiscate parts of his property. The current easing of conditions has obviously reduced this risk.