Starting on January 22, embattled 2020 presidential hopeful and eccentric crypto champion John McAfee posted a series of videos on Twitter announcing that he is fleeing charges he claims have been brought by the United States Internal Revenue Service (IRS) against him, his wife, and four unnamed campaign workers. McAfee tells his followers not to worry – he will run his 2020 presidential campaign from a boat in international waters while in exile.
The tweet accompanying McAfee's first video says he's being charged with "using Crypto Cuttencies [sic] in criminal acts against the U. S. Government." The video shows a well-dressed McAfee on a boat, drink in hand, a US flag behind him. "On January 22, the IRS has convened a grand jury in the state of Tennessee," McAfee says, "to charge myself, my wife (Mrs. McAfee), and four of my campaign workers with unspecified IRS crimes of a felonious nature."
McAfee tells his viewers he has not paid taxes in eight years – a fact he seems to be proud of. He reiterates his long-held belief that "at some point cryptocurrency will come head-to-head with governments" because once mass adoption of privacy coins occurs, governments will no longer be able to collect taxes, they will shrink, and be forced to find other sources of revenue. McAfee says this is "a good thing."
In a second video posted later that day, McAfee, looks considerably more tired. With a plate of food in his hand, he explains what he thinks is really going on between him and the IRS. McAfee says the clash between old and new cultures caused by new technology "changes the world." He believes "cryptocurrency is one of these technologies" because it frees people "from the yolk of currency," which is controlled by the government, and therefore controls the lives of everyone. McAfee says he's been at the forefront of this clash between private and government-controlled money, and that's why the government is targeting him. "I am being cut down as one of the tallest trees in this forest as a warning to others."
But that won't stop him from running for president in 2020. To make his bid for president in 2020 while in exile, McAfee is taking a "V for Vendetta" approach. McAfee explains that thousands of masks of his likeness will be made, and these masks will be distributed to his campaign workers across the US. McAfee says the masks will first be distributed to his "road warriors." Once a month, these campaign workers will "appear in parks, street corners, restaurants, all around America, while I speak through loudspeakers through them." McAfee says this method will also allow him to answer questions from different parts of the country and participate in conferences and debates.
McAfee's campaign manager, who communicates with him via a portable speaker, claims that this is a viable method that is already being used in Asian countries.
Even though McAfee is apparently spending money to conduct his campaign, he claims he has no desire to be president. In a subsequent January 22 tweet, he says he only wants the stage and cautions people not to "get distracted by trivialities" such as his eligibility to become president.
Running a presidential campaign in exile is bound to garner McAfee more of the attention he seems to crave. It's unclear, however, that the IRS has actually taken any action against him, especially given the partial shutdown of the federal government. A large percentage of IRS staff are furloughed and most agency functions are on hold.
McAfee has a history of making similarly dubious claims. In early August 2018, he offered a $100,000 dollar bounty to anyone who could hack a new crypto wallet released by tech company Bitfi, which he was promoting as "unhackable." By the end of the month, however, cyber security company Pen Test Patterners announced it had stripped down the device and found it to be nothing but a basic version of an Android phone that offered "no significant tamper protection."