Jared Kushner, the son-in-law of former President Donald Trump who served as a senior adviser during Trump’s time in the White House, was apparently interested in whether the federal government should create a cryptocurrency in 2018. In an email to then-U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Kushner asked if he could get a group of people to “brainstorm” about the government creating its own digital currency, as revealed by a Freedom Of Information Act request from: CoinDesk.
While we haven’t seen the idea come to fruition yet, it’s interesting that someone who had a lot of status in the White House (and also acted) as director of the Office of American Innovation) thought about it years ago.
Here is the email in full:
Would you be willing to allow me to bring a small group of people to brainstorm on this topic?
I feel like it could make sense and could also be something that could ultimately change the way we pay out
rights and saves us a lot in waste fraud and also in transaction costs…
Kushner’s link goes to: a 2018 blog post titled “US Digital Currency”, which is written by Sam Altman, a former president of startup incubator Y Combinator and currently the CEO of OpenAI. The post discusses how the US should create a cryptocurrency and make it legal tender in the country. (Although it suggests calling the currency USDC, for US digital currencies, there is actually one) currently a stablecoin called USDC, short for US Dollar Coin, but that it was not created by the government.) Altman’s post suggests that the US cryptocurrency could have tax built in and that building it could help give America “some power over a global currency”. .
For his part, Kushner suggests it could be a way to reduce waste, fraud and transaction costs when paying dues. The outcome of his request is unclear — the emails don’t indicate whether Mnuchin ever responded, or whether there was ever a meeting about the idea.
Since Kushner sent the email, the government has not ignored cryptocurrency. The IRS and the Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network have been active in monitoring the crypto space and have attempted to pass legislation to collect and regulate crypto data. Mnuchin’s emails also reveal that the US Treasury Department has met with executives from several cryptocurrency trading companies, including Coinbase, Jack Dorsey’s Square (now Block), and Xapo Bank.
While the US does not have an official digital currency, there are other countries that do. Bitcoin is now an official currency in El Salvador, alongside the US dollar, and China has introduced a digital yuan, although it is not based on the blockchain. Venezuela founded its own cryptocurrency in 2018 called the Petro (in 2019, Mnuchin emailed two other finance ministers saying that they have the plans to use crypto for international trade), although the currency does not seem to have been particularly successful, and Trump banned Americans from buying it during his term as president.
While it doesn’t look like we’ll be getting an official US cryptocurrency anytime soon, there was one last thing that struck me while reading the trove of emails Coinbase received; Mnuchin got really eyebrow-raising spam about crypto while running the treasury (that might be one of the few things I have in common with him). My favorite was one of someone who… I believe claimed to represent all of humanity? The subject line reads: “Bitcoin is not recognized by the central government of the world (on which we live): the true creator of Bitcoin (in said world) may be known.”
It is not clear from the documents whether Mnuchin ever responded. You can read the entire cache of emails CoinDesk obtained here, if you are so inclined.