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Trump vows to aid convicted 'Silk Road' founder in crypto appeal

Stephanie Lai and Hadriana Lowenkron, Bloomberg News on

Published in Political News

Donald Trump called to commute the sentence of Ross Ulbricht, the founder of the Silk Road online marketplace, in an attempt to position himself as a pro-cryptocurrency candidate to Libertarian voters.

Ulbricht, 40, is serving a life sentence after he was convicted in 2015 of running Silk Road, where customers used Bitcoin and other virtual currencies to buy illegal drugs and hacker tools, from 2011 to October 2013.

“If you vote for me on day one I will commute the sentence of Ross Ulbricht,” Trump said in a speech Saturday at the Libertarian party convention. “He’s already served 11 years. We’re gonna get him home.”

The speech reflects the former president’s latest effort to broaden his support ahead of November’s rematch with President Joe Biden and neutralize threat from third-party bids. Trump asked for Libertarians to support him and pledged to appoint party members to his Cabinet and other senior administration posts.

Calling to commute Ulbricht’s sentence could also score him points with pro-crypto political action committees, which are raising millions of dollars to help elect candidates who support digital currencies.

Ulbricht is seen by many Libertarian party members as a martyr, many of them donning “Free Ross” signs at the convention at the Washington Hilton.

Trump has increasingly sought to embrace pro-crypto policies. Earlier Saturday he posted on social media that he is “VERY POSITIVE AND OPEN MINDED TO CRYPTOCURRENCY COMPANIES, AND ALL THINGS RELATED TO THIS NEW AND BURGEONING INDUSTRY.” He added that the U.S. should be a leader in the field.

Trump has not publicly endorsed a crypto plan. However, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, who Trump is eyeing for a top administration job if he wins the election, has called to deregulate the industry, a stance that puts him largely out of step with both fellow Republicans and Democrats, especially in the aftermath of the implosion of the crypto empire FTX, which led to the fraud conviction of the organization’s founder, Sam Bankman-Fried. Members of both political parties have called for more oversight of the industry to protect consumers.

 

The address from Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, at the convention of another party is an unusual move, given that Libertarians plan to nominate their own presidential and vice presidential candidates. Brian McWilliams, a party spokesperson, said Libertarians do not intend to endorse Trump or partner with him. The crowd responded with a mix of boos and cheers.

Still, Trump has courted Libertarians, saying last week that it was important to get their support “because they get their 3% every year no matter who’s running, and we have to get that 3%.” A senior adviser from his campaign said it is is fully aware that there will be people in the audience who aren’t Trump supporters, but they recognize that they need to go to places that Republican candidates typically won’t go in order to win.

Trump’s speech comes a day after Robert F. Kennedy Jr., who is running an independent bid, also addressed the convention. Kennedy’s bid, which has already qualified for the ballot in some states, including battleground Michigan, threatens to peel away votes from both major party candidates.

Trump has increasingly targeted Kennedy, even questioning whether the longtime vaccine skeptic is sincere in his views, highlighting worries about losing voters to the independent candidate.

Even as Trump has been largely occupied by his first criminal trial involving hush-money payments a May Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll shows him leading Biden among voters across seven swing states by 48% to 44%.

A jury could have a verdict in the hush-money trial as soon as next week, potentially allowing Trump to return full steam to the trail.


©2024 Bloomberg L.P. Visit bloomberg.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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