🔒 Trump’s financial predicament raises national security concerns

Donald Trump, facing a $454 million civil fraud judgment, claims he lacks the cash to appeal, signalling potential financial turmoil ahead. With his assets at risk of seizure, questions arise about his motives and connections, particularly concerning classified documents and business dealings. As legal pressures mount, Trump’s financial woes deepen, making him vulnerable to lenders and foreign interests. The outcome remains uncertain, but his predicament underscores broader concerns about his influence and integrity.

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By Timothy L. O’Brien

Donald Trump, the self-described multibillionaire and “king of debt,” said he doesn’t have enough cash on hand to appeal a $454 million civil fraud judgment against him. ___STEADY_PAYWALL___ Embarrassing, of course. But his empty pockets also raise the possibility that his collection of urban real estate, golf courses and snake oil may be headed for a brutal financial squeeze.

Trump’s predicament is also the latest reminder that his financial challenges make him a national security threat — something that has been a reality ever since he was elected president in 2016. He’s always been willing to sell his name to the highest bidder. There’s no reason to believe that Trump, whose businesses collected millions of dollars from foreign governments and officials while he was president, won’t have a for-sale sign out now that he’s struggling with the suffocating weight of court judgments.

Trump is being criminally prosecuted for allegedly misappropriating classified documents and stashing them at Mar-a-Lago, his home in Palm Beach, Florida. Without a trial and public disclosure of more evidence, Trump’s motivations for taking the documents are unknown, but it’s reasonable to wonder whether he pondered trying to sell them. Monetizing the White House has been something of a family affair, after all. His son-in-law, Jared Kushner, has been busy trading financially on his proximity to the former president, for example.

All of this was troubling enough during and after Trump’s first stay in the Oval Office. He wasn’t under the kind of financial pressure he’s contending with now, however, and it makes all of his current financial maneuvers even more questionable — and certainly much more threatening. He’s not just another wheeler-dealer caught out over his skis.

Did Trump flip-flop on his support for banning the social media platform TikTok from the US because Jeff Yass, a huge donor, has a large investment in the Chinese company that owns it? I don’t know. Did Trump meet with Elon Musk, the wealthy entrepreneur whose automotive, communication and space exploration assets have relied on close business and financial relationships with the federal government, because he needed to raise money quickly in the wake of the civil fraud judgment? I don’t know.

Still, these are good questions to get answers to and should make voters wonder about whose interests Trump will serve should he be reelected in November.

Meanwhile, the clock is ticking. New York State Attorney General Letitia James, who successfully prosecuted Trump for lying about the value of his assets to banks and other parties, can seize his assets on March 25 to satisfy the $454 million judgment against him. Trump is appealing the ruling but still must place funds in escrow until the courts reach a final decision. That means he may have to put up at least $500 million to satisfy both the judgment and accrued interest while he appeals.

In a court filing on Monday, Trump’s lawyers said that the judgment would require him to have cash reserves of $1 billion and that he doesn’t have the money. Trump testified during a deposition last year that he had “substantially in excess of 400 million in cash,” a sum that was “going up very substantially every month.” That was either untrue or Trump, who has a long history of lying, wants to avoid using his own money or somehow burned through that magical pile of cash over the last year.

Trump recently posted a $91.6 million bond to postpone payment of a verdict in his defamation loss to the writer E. Jean Carroll. He’s also appealing that verdict. The bond was underwritten by a subsidiary of a large insurer, Chubb Ltd. No details were made public about what Trump posted as collateral. In court filings, Trump has flagged New York real estate he owns, including 40 Wall Street, Trump Tower, Trump National Golf Club Hudson Valley and Trump Park Avenue, as properties he could tap to settle the Carroll verdict. Chubb, presumably, was satisfied that it could seize such assets should it need to.

But bond underwriters balked at sponsoring Trump for the $454 million fraud verdict. Trump’s court filing Monday said that the developer had approached 30 companies to secure a bond but that he came up empty-handed. He asked that the amount he is required to be lowered or eliminated. Otherwise, he allowed, he would have to engage in a “fire sale” of some of his properties to satisfy the payment.

Trump, who has routinely inflated the value of what he owns, has a net worth of about $3.1 billion, according to Bloomberg News. Most of this is tied up in illiquid real estate holdings, particularly urban properties already stressed by the post-Covid flight of occupants away from downtown neighborhoods. He has also always been fond of borrowing heavily against his assets, so it’s never entirely clear how much debt he’s carrying at any given time.

This would be a perilous state of financial affairs for anyone contending with just one large court judgment. But Trump is facing four other prosecutions. Potential lenders or buyers are well aware of Trump’s travails, meaning that he is unlikely to get favorable terms or top dollar when he approaches them with his hand out.

The complexity of the Trump Organization will also get in the way. A skein of about 415 shell companies and other operating entities exist under the Trump Organization’s corporate umbrella, though only about 70 actually generate revenue. Trump’s name is also on buildings that others own.

So the going is likely to get rough for Trump as this plays out, and he’s likely to become more financially desperate with each passing day. That’s going to make him easy prey for interested lenders — and an easy mark for overseas interests eager to influence US policy.

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