Unexpected moments can have surprising ripple effects. This was vividly illustrated when a pair of NFT builders from DeGods project creator DeLabs—founder Frank (aka Rohun Vora) and Chief of Staff Malcolm—visited Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort earlier this month for an event for Trump NFT holders, and went viral for asking the former president a crypto-related question.

The exchange not only captivated online audiences, but has also convinced some industry observers that they helped influence the broader discourse on crypto regulation during the 2024 election cycle—and turned the MOG shades-wearing Malcolm into a crypto folk hero of sorts.

Potentially shifting the course of U.S. crypto policy wasn't his reason for being at the event, of course, as he recently told Decrypt. He was just there to try and film some fun content.

“It was a small group of maybe 70-100 people. We wanted to see if we could ask questions,” Malcolm said. However, in the moment, he felt a lot of pressure due to the more serious nature of the crowd.


“There were a lot of people in private equity, venture capitalists, so a lot of our more funny, viral ideas went out the window,” he said. “But there was a Q&A portion, and the moment felt organic—and what came into my mind was asking about regulatory clarity.”

Malcolm raised his hand. Trump pointed his way: “You, with the goggles on.”

“A lot of the smartest people in crypto are moving their businesses out of the U.S. because they’re scared of the regulations,” Malcolm began.


“Because of the hostility,” Trump interjected. “They’re moving out of the U.S. because of the hostility toward crypto.”

When Malcolm pressed Trump for how he would stop that from happening, Trump replied, “Well, we’ll stop it because I don’t want that. If we’re going to embrace it, we have to let them be here.”

The crowd cheered. And following the event, the online crypto community buzzed with excitement. Memes featuring Malcolm in his Pit Viper shades circulated widely. Some even argued that this bold move by Frank and Malcolm highlighted the importance of clear regulatory guidelines, and pushed the topic into mainstream political conversations.

Cryptocurrency has rapidly become a significant issue for voters. Donald Trump emphasized its importance this weekend in a speech at the Libertarian National Convention, declaring, "I guarantee the future of crypto and Bitcoin will be developed in the USA."

He also supported the right to self-custody (i.e. to hold crypto privately in your own digital wallet) for the nation's 50 million crypto holders, and firmly opposed the creation of a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC). Trump began taking cryptocurrency donations towards his campaign last week, as well.

While it’s difficult to measure the direct impact of the Trump NFT event and Malcolm's question on policy, the timing was impeccable. Shortly afterward, there were noticeable shifts in the rhetoric surrounding crypto regulation among 2024 presidential candidates.


Recently, the House also passed the FIT-21 bill, which will at long last provide the first federal regulatory framework for digital assets. The Biden Administration, perhaps due to pressure from Trump’s pro-crypto comments, has also softened on crypto by not threatening a veto of the bill, despite doing that for a different crypto bill earlier this month.

More pressingly, the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved spot Ethereum ETFs last week in an about-face policy shift, following months of increasingly bearish expectations that the regulator would deny them amid its broader crypto crackdown. Some crypto builders saw an obvious throughline from Malcom's question to the SEC's big shift.

"The guy in the goggles has completely reversed crypto's fortunes in Washington," tweeted Gemini co-founder Tyler Winklevoss after the ETF approvals. "Well done sir."

Frank, the DeGods and y00ts project founder, wasn't shocked by how big of an impact Trump’s comments made.

“Not the least bit surprised this went so viral,” he told Decrypt. “Crypto natives are desperate for politicians to get serious about regulatory clarity. Our livelihoods hang in the balance. Malcolm's question really hit the nail on the head by vocalizing a primary concern of the crypto community to Trump. It was amazing to watch and to be a part of.”

Did a guy in MOG goggles asking the former president (and current presumptive Republican nominee) really change the course of crypto policy in the United States?

Maybe it was just a coincidence. But even if so, their actions undeniably brought attention to the issue in a way that traditional lobbying efforts often fail to achieve. And it reveals a complex interplay between meme culture and regulatory influence, illustrating that sometimes the most serious conversations begin with a bit of humor.


“By no means do I take credit for the ETF or FIT-21,” Malcolm added. “This fight is way bigger than I am. I just wanted to represent youthful crypto natives that are often not heard in these more ‘upper-echelon’ conversations.”

Frank, a prominent builder in the NFT world, reflected on the broader implications and what this means for the future—and said it’s pushed him to get more serious about crypto regulation.

“You know, I’m really just in learning mode these days. I think the Trump event sparked a lot of personal curiosity and revealed a gap in my knowledge,” he said. “Up until now, I haven’t spent a ton of time reading up on [regulation]—but I think DeGods, and Crypto Twitter more broadly, could serve a much more important role in this whole thing than we realize. I’d love to be more involved in making this happen.”

Edited by Andrew Hayward

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