Donald Trump wins pause of $454 million civil fraud ruling, averting asset seizures

Donald Trump won a bid on Monday (local time) to pause his US$454 million ($NZ756.28 million) civil fraud judgment if he posts a smaller $175 million ($291.5 million) bond within 10 days, in a victory for the former US president that blocks New York state authorities from taking steps to seize his assets.

The decision by a mid-level state appeals court eases an acute cash crunch for Trump, who has said he would be forced to sell assets at "fire sale prices" to post bond in the case.

If Trump posts bond by the new deadline, state authorities will not be able to start seizing his assets.

The ruling delays enforcement of a judgment in a case that found he overstated his wealth to dupe investors and lenders, though it does not indicate how the appeals court might ultimately rule or address the merits of the case. It could take judges up to a year or longer to reach a decision on that.

"I greatly respect the decision of the appellate division and I'll post either the $175 million in cash or bonds or securities or whatever is necessary, very quickly," Trump told reporters at a New York courthouse where he was appearing in a separate criminal case.

New York Attorney General Letitia James's office, which is handling the civil case, said Trump is "still facing accountability for his staggering fraud".

The Republican former president is battling criminal charges and multi-million dollar civil judgments while he seeks to unseat Democratic President Joe Biden in the November 5 US election.

Trump's legal maneuvering has delayed three of those criminal trials, though a New York judge ruled on Monday that the fourth case, involving hush money paid to a porn star, would start on April 15.

Before the pause was granted, Trump faced a Monday deadline to come up with the $454 million judgment, which he said he was unable to do. At that point, James could have asked a court to start seizing his assets, including prized real estate holdings like 40 Wall Street in Manhattan.

Trump has struggled to raise money for both his campaign and his legal expenses. He has pleaded not guilty in the criminal cases and has denied wrongdoing in all of the cases.

In the New York civil case, Trump was found liable for fraudulently inflating his net worth by billions of dollars to secure better loan and insurance terms. He has said the case is a political vendetta by James, a Democrat.

Justice Arthur Engoron found Trump had engaged in fraud by overvaluing properties including his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, his penthouse apartment in Manhattan's Trump Tower, and various office buildings and golf courses. The trial focused primarily on how much Trump should pay in penalties.

In a separate civil case, Trump has posted a $91.6 million ($152.5 million) bond to cover a defamation verdict for writer E. Jean Carroll, who said he defamed her by branding her a liar after she accused him of raping her decades ago. Trump is appealing that judgment as well.

The criminal cases Trump faces stem from his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss to Biden, his handling of classified documents after leaving office in 2021, and hush money paid before his 2016 election to a porn star who said she had a sexual encounter with him years earlier.