Lummis, Wyden Raise Alarm Biden DOJ is Criminalizing Core Tenants of Bitcoin Network, Decentralized Finance 

May 13, 2024

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Cynthia Lummis (R-WY) and Ron Wyden (D-OR) sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland raising significant concerns that the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) has diverged from the clear, logically sound and well-established definition of “money transmission” established by the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN). The DOJ’s unprecedented and unlawful change in interpretation of the law threatens to criminalize core elements of Bitcoin and other crypto networks and prevents responsible financial innovation from occurring in the U.S.

“The Biden administration steamrolling the existing and longstanding interpretation of FinCEN is not only wrong on the law, but undermines the entrepreneurial foundations that make America the global economic leader it is,” said Lummis. “Wallet software is no more to blame for illicit finance than a highway is responsible for a bank robber’s getaway car. I remain deeply committed to ensuring every American has the ability to self-custody their assets, and the transformative emerging Bitcoin and crypto asset industry has the ability to legally operate in this country. The right to store your private keys in your own wallet must be protected.”

“The government should fully enforce the law against individuals who use digital assets to launder money or evade taxes, but law enforcement agencies should not adopt conflicting interpretations of the law,” said Wyden. “I’m concerned the DOJ’s interpretation would treat software developers as criminals for merely writing and publishing code used by others – a dangerous precedent that contradicts decades of settled law and raises serious First Amendment concerns. Senator Lummis and I are urging the Justice Department to follow the lead of Treasury’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network and focus on the people who illegally transmit digital assets, not coders and innovators.”


The Department of Justice’s new expansive interpretation that argues money transmission requirements extend to non-custodial software has been seen in two recent criminal cases:

  • On April 24, 2024, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York charged the co-founders of Samourai, a non-custodial Bitcoin service, with conspiracy to commit money laundering and operate an unlicensed money transmitting business.
  • On April 26, 2024, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York filed a reply brief in their case against the developers of Tornado Cash, claiming custody is not required for a service to constitute a unlicensed money transmission.

Click here to read the full letter.