Kirstjen Nielsen, who once ran the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, is the latest top official from the administration of former President Donald Trump to join Swiss firm Astra Protocol as a strategic adviser.
The former cabinet secretary and one-time deputy chief of staff for Trump’s White House said she’ll help with funding and compliance strategies at the Zurich-based company, which aims to offer a compliance layer on decentralized finance (DeFi) contracts to satisfy government rules meant to combat money laundering. She arrives at her first crypto role on the heels of Mick Mulvaney, Trump’s former budget head and acting chief of staff, who is also helping advise Astra on its upcoming plans for raising capital and its interactions with the U.S. government.
As the former top official for U.S. border security from 2017 to 2019, Nielsen became a well-known representative of Trump’s immigration policies and its hotly debated actions at the Mexican border. At Astra, she’ll help the startup with cybersecurity and the “global risk environment,” in addition to policy matters when they come up, according to the company.
“I’m fascinated and very excited by the DeFi evolution,” Nielsen said in an interview. “What we have been missing in DeFi is a layer of trust. Astra’s decentralized legal layer will assure regulatory compliance and enable efficient and fair dispute resolution.”
Astra Protocol is seeking to provide compliance without jeopardizing the decentralization of contracts, relying on a network of legal and audit firms around the world that can provide anti-money laundering services. However, the fledgling company hasn’t yet sought any U.S. regulatory approvals for its technology.
“We are able to connect users to experts in the decentralized legal network within seconds and minutes,” Nielsen said. She contends the advance will “add more trust from a regulatory perspective,” which will result in more mainstream traditional capital coming into the market, boosting retail adoption.
Bringing in Nielsen and Mulvaney could also help bolster ties to Republican officials and lawmakers, just as Washington braces itself for the midterm elections this year that could see the GOP make gains in Congress.
“Having been in charge of a key part of the U.S. government, Ms. Nielsen will play an essential role in helping us efficiently navigate an ever-changing governmental and regulatory landscape,” said Phil Hogan, the former European commissioner for trade who leads Astra’s advisory board, in a statement.
The leader in news and information on cryptocurrency, digital assets and the future of money, CoinDesk is an award-winning media outlet that strives for the highest journalistic standards and abides by a strict set of editorial policies. In November 2023, CoinDesk was acquired by Bullish group, owner of Bullish, a regulated, institutional digital assets exchange. Bullish group is majority owned by Block.one; both groups have interests in a variety of blockchain and digital asset businesses and significant holdings of digital assets, including bitcoin. CoinDesk operates as an independent subsidiary, and an editorial committee, chaired by a former editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, is being formed to support journalistic integrity.