By Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg/Getty Images.
Gary Cohn, the former investment banker whose most well-known trade has become exchanging his credibility for an advisory role in the White House, doesn’t seem to know what to make of bitcoin. Cohn, at six feet three inches and some 220 pounds, is as gregarious as he can be intimating. But in an appearance on CNBC on Friday, ostensibly to discuss the Republican tax bill, a question about the volatile cryptocurrency had him at a loss for words. “I’m going to leave that to you,” he said, laughing uncomfortably and shrugging his shoulders. “You’re the expert today.”
The question, posed by CNBC fixture Jim Cramer, didn’t come out of nowhere. This year alone, bitcoin’s price has risen more than 1,500 percent, though it’s also been marked by wild fluctuations. Last month, its price dropped $1,000 in 10 minutes, plummeting below $10,000 after it had hit its all-time high of $11,000. This week, it crossed $14,000 and skyrocketed to its current record-high price of $19,000 before losing nearly one-fifth of its value in a 10-hour period on Friday, amid concerns that a price correction is coming. Despite abundant red flags, optimism among bitcoin’s most faithful users and buyers springs eternal.
What the Trump administration plans to do about that is anyone’s guess. “We’re watching it, of course we’re watching it,” Cohn clarified, in a follow-up interview on Bloomberg TV. “Right now we don’t think it’s a serious risk, but right now we’re watching it.” Asked if bitcoin might become a regulated commodity, he noted that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission had approved bitcoin futures contracts, so that investors can bet against bitcoin. “It’s an evolving market,” he added. “We’ve watched this happen before as markets have evolved.”
The lack of discourse about bitcoin is something of a pattern. Last week, Sarah Huckabee Sanders answered a question from a reporter during a press briefing about whether the government would regulate cryptocurrencies like bitcoin. “I know this is something that is being monitored by our team here,” she said, in what amounted to the first White House response from the Trump administration on bitcoin. “Tom Bossert, with the Homeland Security team, an adviser to the president, has brought this up in a meeting earlier this week. I know this is something he is keeping an eye on.” She quickly changed the subject.