On Thursday night at 8:15pm ET, President Donald Trump tweeted about cryptocurrencies for the first time ever—and the tweet was extremely bearish.
It was a moment crypto faithful had hoped to see for years, since the time when Trump was a candidate. In some circles of the crypto community, there was even optimism that Trump, the “business president,” might be friendly to bitcoin.
In a three-part thread, Trump said:
“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... Similarly, Facebook Libra’s ‘virtual currency’ will have little standing or dependability. If Facebook and other companies want to become a bank, they must seek a new Banking Charter and become subject to all Banking Regulations, just like other Banks, both National... and International. We have only one real currency in the USA, and it is stronger than ever, both dependable and reliable. It is by far the most dominant currency anywhere in the World, and it will always stay that way. It is called the United States Dollar!”
Given the timing of Trump’s tweet, it is no surprise that it started out about bitcoin but ended up focusing on Libra coin, the new cryptocurrency set to launch in the first half of 2020, spearheaded by Facebook but co-supported by nearly 30 name-brand “founding member” companies including Visa, MasterCard, eBay, PayPal, Uber, Lyft, and Spotify.
Trump’s tweets were almost surely prompted by Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell’s comments on Thursday about Libra, amid recent comments and concerns from many other lawmakers.
On Wednesday, during his testimony to members of the Senate, Powell said that Libra “raises serious concerns,” and in response to a question about Libra, said “I just think it cannot go forward without there being broad satisfaction with the way the company has addressed money laundering, data protection, consumer privacy... All of those things will need to be addressed very thoroughly and carefully, and again, in a deliberate process that will not be a sprint to implementation.”
Powell again commented on Libra on Thursday when Virginia Sen. Mark Warner asked if Powell agrees with FDIC Chair Sheila Bair’s commentary that the Fed should oversee Libra, and Powell responded, “I did see that op-ed, I think that was an interesting idea.”
Earlier this month, members of the House Financial Services Committee sent a letter to Facebook demanding that it “immediately cease implementation plans” for both Libra and its digital wallet Calibra until lawmakers get their questions answered. Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown has called Libra “Facebook’s Monopoly money.”
Trump’s tweets about crypto also came a few short hours after the administration held a gathering at the White House for right-wing social media personalities—and did not invite anyone representing Twitter or Facebook.
Despite the bearish sentiment of Trump’s first crypto tweets, Coinbase CEO Brian Armstrong is counting it as a win just to have Trump tweeting about crypto at all. Armstrong retweeted Trump and added: “Achievement unlocked! I dreamt about a sitting U.S. president needing to respond to growing cryptocurrency usage years ago. ‘First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.’ We just made it to step 3 y'all.”
Daniel Roberts covers bitcoin and blockchain at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter at @readDanwrite.