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Today's The Day

Today is the date that Donald Trump has long feared. His whole life he has stretched, bent, and broken the law and always gotten away with it. Today, the piper may have to be paid. First, New York AG Letitia James, a.k.a. "The Piper," could insist that if Trump fails to cough up a bond for $454 million, she will begin seizing his assets. This would drive Trump mad since his whole image is tied up with his money and a viral video of workmen replacing the "Trump Tower" sign at 725 Fifth Ave. with a sign reading "New York State Tower" would be an intolerable humiliation and could possibly hurt him politically. On the other hand, Republican pollster Frank Luntz says that the backlash from a seizure could convince Trump's base that the deep state is really after him. We will see later today if he can pull a $454 million-dollar gold-plated rabbit out of a MAGA hat.

On Friday, Trump said that he actually has $500 million in cash, but that he doesn't want to use the money for his bond in the New York fraud case. The former head of ethics at the White House, Norm Eisen, called that remark "dumb." Former Watergate prosecutor Nick Akerman said it was "the dumbest thing he could have possibly done because that is a direct admission, by him, that he has the money." If judge Arthur Engoron believes Trump has $500 million in cash, he is never going to lower the bond based on hardship. Also, this remark directly counters what his lawyers said last week, namely that he didn't have $454 million and no surety company would lend it to him. If Trump can't produce the bond, the ball is in Engoron's court.

Suppose Trump can't or won't pay up. What then? Then James will play the game of "Search and Seizure." She will then begin searching for his assets. She actually already knows quite a bit, but she could get the judge to order him to produce a list of all his bank and securities accounts and real estate, listing all the mortgages and liens on each one. If he refuses, the judge could find him in contempt of court and fine him or even put him in jail. James could possibly also ask the judge to subpoena Trump's most recent New York State tax returns from either the state or from his accountant to see if he had tax-deductible interest, and if so, from which banks.

Once James is done searching, she can begin seizing. She is certain to start by seizing all his bank accounts and securities accounts, since that is easy. He wouldn't like her selling any securities he has because that could trigger capital gains taxes. Tough luck. The procedure is for the judge to issue an order to transfer all funds in Trump's accounts at the bank to a state account and have a New York City sheriff serve it on the manager of the main branch of the bank in question.

Trump has an old rust-bucket 757 airplane. He would really, really not like that seized because it would make campaigning harder, but there is a secondary market in used aircraft and James could sell it easily. Appealing seizure is very difficult and very unlikely to succeed.

Once James has all the low-hanging fruit, she would likely begin seizing his real estate. Here is a list of properties she could go after:

Property Location Trump's stake
Office and retail building 1290 Ave. of the Americas, NYC $287 million
Condos at Trump Park Avenue 502 Park Ave., NYC $101 million
Retail leases 6 East 57th St., NYC $99 million
70-Story Office building 40 Wall St., NYC $80 million
Commercial space in Trump Tower 725 Fifth Ave., NYC $56 million
Triplex apartment Trump Tower, NYC $52 million
Condos in Trump Parc 106 Central Park South, NYC $28 million
Seven Springs Mount Kisco, NY $25 million
Trump World Tower 845 United Nations Plaza, NYC $19 million
Coops in Trump Plaza 167 E. 61st St., NYC $18 million
Westchester Golf Club Briarcliff Manor, NY $15 million
Holdings at Trump Int'l Hotel & Tower Columbus Circle, NYC $4 million
Storage units at Trump Palace 200 E. 69th St., NYC $1 million

After firing up our trusty calculator app, we conclude these babies add up to $785 million. However—and this is a biggie—there may be mortgages and liens on some of these properties. If the properties are sold, these get paid before James gets any money. Furthermore, if any of these went on sale or up for auction, prospective buyers would know that James is in a hurry, so bidding could start pretty low. It would also take a long time before any cash was received.

These are just some of Trump's properties in New York. James is free to go after his properties and assets worldwide. New York is just the easiest. Trump's Doral Golf Course in Miami is probably worth hundreds of millions, but to seize that would require getting Florida to cooperate, which would put Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL) on the spot. Mar-a-Lago is protected by Florida's homestead exemption, so James cannot seize that. Next, after properties in New Jersey, Florida, and other states, are foreign properties, but that is even more complicated.

The usual procedure for seizing real estate is as follows. James pays the sheriff's office a $350 fee for each property she wants. The sheriff then posts a notice on the property in three places. Then James must advertise the seizure in four places to give lienholders and the public notice. After 63 days, a public auction is held for the property. Trump will be allowed to cooperate. For example, he may be asked for a list of the tenants at some building and how much rent they pay. This knowledge will make it possible for bidders to make more accurate bids. Absent this information, they are likely to be more conservative and just bid based on square footage.

Also relevant is that the Trump Organization owns 500 corporations (e.g., hotels, golf courses, office buildings, and more). They could be seized and auctioned as well.

The above discussion is about the New York civil fraud case, but that isn't Trump's only worry today. Judge Juan Merchan, who will preside over the Stormy Daniels hush-money case, will decide whether the trial, originally scheduled for today and now scheduled for April 15, will be delayed more. This case is a criminal one and could potentially put Trump behind bars, although as a first-time offender he is more likely to get a fine. Of course, Trump will ask for another delay, but it is up to the judge. Manhattan D.A. Alvin Bragg wants to get the show on the road as fast as possible and will oppose any more delays. Both Engoron and Merchan are going to get an extra 15 minutes of fame today. (V)

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