Unpacking the Trump Presidency’s Crypto Legacy

Welcome to State of Crypto, a CoinDesk newsletter looking at the intersection of cryptocurrency and government. I’m your host, Nikhilesh De.

A number of crypto issues are on deck as Joe Biden enters the second week of his presidency. This week’s edition of SoC looks at what now-former President Donald Trump left behind.

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Where we’re at

Key narrative

Crypto grew rapidly over the four years Trump was in office – despite his own public admission that he is “not a fan” of bitcoin. While he wasn’t directly responsible for this growth, the regulators he appointed and some of the policies his administration pursued undeniably boosted the crypto industry. After four years, here’s what his administration left behind.

Why it matters

The Trump administration was largely friendly toward the industry (with a few notable exceptions), and ushered in a wave of regulations and products that were welcomed by the crypto community. The Trump administration stopped short of actually setting a policy direction, however. Almost all of the crypto-friendly actions were conducted by the regulators he nominated to various posts, and no significant legislation on the crypto space was passed or signed into law.

Breaking it down

SEC: Light on the guidance

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) hasn’t published a ton of guidance, Commissioner Hester Peirce’s attempts notwithstanding. Mostly it came down to: initial coin offerings (ICO) and cryptocurrencies may violate securities laws, hit up the SEC if you have questions. Also, the SEC rejected like a gazillion bitcoin exchange-traded fund (ETF) applications, though there’s some renewed hope one will be approved in 2021. Here are some other memorable moments from the Trump era:

  • An SEC staffer asked the general public to “please stop asking” about bitcoin ahead of a decision on whether it will approve a bitcoin ETF in March 2017 (the SEC later rejected the ETF…

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