President Donald Trump bellowed at Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin to pursue the popular cryptocurrency Bitcoin rather than stick his nose into trade matters, according to former National Security Adviser John Bolton.
Bolton makes the allegation in his new book, The Room Where It Happened, which delivers numerous accounts of high-level White House meetings, and is set for release on Tuesday.
Trump’s comments about Bitcoin come in a section of the book, viewed by Fortune, in which Bolton describes his frustrations with what he views as the President’s slapdash approach to policymaking vis-à-vis China. More specifically, Bolton describes a heated encounter when Trump allegedly became frustrated with Mnuchin’s attempt to exert influence over trade tactics. The relevant excerpt reads as follows:
“Not only was his outsized role institutionally unusual, Mnuchin’s pro-China, zeal-for-the-deal approach was substantively dangerous. From time to time, even Trump saw this. At one Roosevelt Room session, on May 22, Trump all but yelled at Mnuchin, ‘Don’t be a trade negotiator. Go after Bitcoin [for fraud].’”
In response, Mnuchin allegedly told Trump in a near-yell, “If you don’t want me on trade, fine, your economic team will execute whatever you want.”
The Bolton book does not provide further context for the Bitcoin reference, which is the only time the cryptocurrency is mentioned. Neither the White House nor the Treasury Department immediately replied to a request for comment.
The President’s alleged instruction to “go after” Bitcoin is consistent, however, with his earlier expressions of hostility to cryptocurrency. In July of 2019, for instance, Trump tweeted that he is “not a fan” of virtual currencies, claiming they are “not money.” He also denounced cryptocurrency for facilitating the drug trade and other illegal activities, and blasted Facebook’s proposed digital currency project, Libra.
Despite the President’s skepticism toward Bitcoin, some of his allies have been more open to it. These include Stephen Moore, a former campaign adviser and Trump’s aborted pick to join the Federal Reserve, who last October announced plans to launch a cryptocurrency.
John Bolton’s account of Mnuchin and Bitcoin was first reported by the Washington Examiner.