Trump was against Bitcoin even before his Twitter tirade in July 2019, according to the recent book ‘The Room Where It Happened’ by former national security adviser John Bolton.
As per Bolton, US President Donald Trump decided to take his evident dislike of Bitcoin off Twitter and over to the regulatory level.
An article in Forbes on Bolton’s new book, published June 18, reveals that Bolton heard Trump tell Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to “go after Bitcoin.” This was around the time that investors applauded Bitcoin after it rose against the dollar by 33 per cent. “If you don’t want me to do business, well, your economic team will do whatever you want,” was Mnuchin’s reported reply.
Bolton chose to make public that the statement was made on trade sanctions and tariffs against China in a conversation with Secretary Mnuchin. What actually prompted Trump to order Mnuchin to clamp down on Bitcoin and whether the two men had already spoken about cryptocurrencies prior is unknown from the transcript.
There was also a lot of conjecture at the time as to what U.S. regulators would do about blockchain technology. At that year’s CoinDesk Consensus event, industry figures demanded greater clarity from regulators. Delegates from the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said they wished to stop “hindering” progress.
The Washington Examiner, who originally received and discussed this quotation from the book, reported that Bolton dated the quote to a conversation that took place in May 2018 — a year before Bitcoin the tweets by President Trump, and at a time when the blockchain boom was already starting to unravel.
The “first” case was supposedly when Trump tweeted harshly against Bitcoin in July 2019, airing skepticism about it and other cryptocurrencies to his tens of millions of followers on Twitter.
He tweeted, “I am not a fan of Bitcoin and other Cryptocurrencies, which are not money, and whose value is highly volatile and based on thin air. Unregulated Crypto Assets can facilitate unlawful behavior, including drug trade and other illegal activity….”
In contrast, Mnuchin, one of the Trump administration’s longest serving members, has embraced a more reasoned approach. He has come out and stated that they should have no issue with digital asset measures, such as the Libra project, as long as it complies to U.S. regulations.
After the July 2019 tweets, the Treasury Secretary supported Trump’s stance in the newspapers, stating the White House was “looking into all the crypto-assets” and then suggesting that BTC and other cryptocurrencies are used more frequently than cash for money laundering.
Although President Trump evidently made the remark in 2018, Washington has just only recently begun to take action to control the industry better. Secretary Mnuchin made several media appearances starting in 2019, towing Trump’s thoughts about cryptocurrencies. The Treasury Secretary said this days after Trump’s Bitcoin tweet:
“We’re looking at all of the crypto assets. We’re going to make sure we have a unified approach and my guess is that there are going to be more regulations that come out from all these agencies.”
This February, Mnuchin said at a hearing that, with the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN), he would announce some “significant new requirements” for cryptocurrencies, alluding to more federal government oversight to help stop money laundering.
The Secretary provided that although the state wants to “ensure technology is moving forward,” digital assets should not be seen as the modern day equivalent of “old Swiss secret number bank accounts”
The FinCEN recommendations developed by the Financial Action Task Force ( FATF) will undoubtedly proceed. In June 2019 the FATF urged member countries to enforce what is recognized as the “travel rule.”
The law specifies that Virtual Asset Service Providers (VASPs) are expected to receive and retain “originator (sender) and recipient (recipient) information, and apply this information to recipient institutions.” VASPs involve exchanges, fiat on / off ramps and custodians.
Interestingly, Trump has also made several decisions that may have helped cryptocurrencies since Bolton’s supposed encounter. In October 2018, Trump named Mick Mulvaney, who is pro-Bitcoin and has called BTC a currency that “no government can control”, as chief of staff for the White House, which could be a point for conflict of interest.
At the time of writing, the book’s launch is delayed due to the actions by the Justice Department, which has filed a lawsuit against Bolton, claiming that his writing contains classified information.