Trump tried to win libertarian voters with promise to grant clemency for imprisoned Silk Road founder

 May 28, 2024

On Saturday, former President Donald Trump ventured into largely hostile political territory at the Libertarian National Convention in an effort to sway some libertarians to support his bid for re-election to a second term in the White House.

As part of that effort, Trump promised to grant executive clemency to Ross Ulbricht, who is currently serving a life sentence in prison following a 2013 conviction for operating an online marketplace for the buying and selling of illicit drugs, according to Politico.

Trump's vow to "Free Ross" at the LNC earned him substantial applause and cheers from the libertarian audience that otherwise mostly booed the former president and expressed skepticism about his plans for another administration.

"On Day One, I will commute the sentence ..."

Ulbricht has been something of a cause celeb for many libertarians over the past decade, as his conviction in federal court and excessive lifetime prison sentence for running a voluntary online market have been decried as a grotesque example of government overreach.

In his speech to try to win over some libertarian voters, Trump said, "And if you vote for me, on Day One, I will commute the sentence of Ross Ulbricht to a sentence of time served."

Following a momentary roar of approval from the crowd, as well as a chant of "Free Ross" from many who were waving signs with the same message, the former president added, "He's already served 11 years. We're gonna get him home."

Ulbricht says "Thank you" in response to Trump's vow

The cryptocurrency-focused site Decrypt reported that Ulbricht quickly expressed his gratitude toward former President Trump for the promise of clemency if re-elected.

In a post to his X account, the imprisoned Ulbricht said, "Last night, Donald Trump pledged to commute my sentence on day 1, if reelected. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. After 11 years in prison, it is hard to express how I feel at this moment. It is thanks to your undying support that I may get a second chance."

Decrypt noted that Trump made a few other promises to try to win over libertarians, including to guard against congressional efforts to strictly regulate cryptocurrency markets, as he quipped to the LNC attendees that he would "keep Elizabeth Warren and her goons away from your Bitcoin."

According to Politico, Trump also vowed to appoint a libertarian to at least one cabinet-level position and other libertarians to unspecified "senior posts" in a prospective second administration, yet while the anti-Big Government crowd undoubtedly welcomed those promises, there remained ample speculation that the former president would follow through on them if re-elected to the White House.

Trump also previously promised to impose the death penalty on drug dealers

The libertarian-ish Reason magazine also reported on former President Trump's promise to commute the sentence of Ulbricht but found it "hard to square" with Trump's many other statements over the years about imposing harsh penalties, including the death sentence, on convicted drug dealers.

That is, in essence, what Ulbricht was, as he was sentenced to serve two life sentences plus 40 years for a plethora of federal crimes, including narcotics distribution, for his founding and operating of the Silk Road online marketplace that allowed others to buy and sell illicit drugs.

Given the leniency that Trump already showed to some convicted drug dealers through the FIRST STEP Act criminal justice reform legislation, it is certainly possible that Trump could make good on his vow to secure Ulbricht's release from prison, but the expressed skepticism and claims of pandering from some libertarians is reasonable in light of the former president's other promises to crack down on those who have engaged in the illegal drug trade.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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