The midterm elections haven’t even been held yet, and already John McAfee has declared his intention to run for president. “In spite of past refusals, I have decided to again run for POTUS in 2020,” the antivirus-software pioneer and cryptocurrency evangelist tweeted June 3. “If asked again by the Libertarian party, I will run with them. If not, I will create my own party. I believe this will best serve the crypto community by providing the ultimate campaign platform for us.”
Controversial and outrageous, McAfee first ran in 2016, failing to secure the Libertarian nomination. This time, however, he sounds pretty confident of his chances. Not that he has any illusions that he’ll ultimately take the highest office in the land. “Don’t think that I have a chance of winning. I do not,” McAfee tweeted shortly after announcing his run. “But what truly changes America is not the president, but the process of creating one. If my following is sufficient I get to stand [on] the world’s largest stage and talk to… everyone, as I did last time, to tell the truth.”
When reached by BREAKER to talk politics, McAfee is in a truth-telling mood. “I am more stoned right now that I’ve been in, I don’t know, a month,” says McAfee, who just turned 73. “And I’m perfectly willing to continue this interview because frequently they”—drug-fueled conversations with journalists—“turn out to be my best.” He’s not wrong: Over the course of 40 minutes, McAfee touches upon everything from his luxe, tax-free lifestyle to his history of bath salts consumption.
So you’re the most stoned you’ve been in a month. Presumably part of your presidential platform will be legalization of marijuana.
My platform would be legalization of almost everything, except the obvious: murder, rape. Though let me ask you a question: Has there ever been a successful piece of legislation that legislated and regulated a part of our lives which was ours, private, and involved only yourself and the person willing to engage in it, too? Let’s look, beginning with, in America, the age of Prohibition. What happened? We drank more alcohol per capita during Prohibition than at any time in history before or since.
In America, certainly up until 10 years ago, virtually every state in America had outlawed weed, marijuana, THC, along with everything else. Let me ask you a question: Anybody, your [readers] out there, you my friend who I’m talking to: Tell me you don’t know at least 10 people who smoke weed?
Of course I do.
So does everybody. As a statistician, I can tell you that 90 percent of this entire nation smokes weed, excepting the kids—and even the kids, for fuck’s sake—so has that been successful legislation? No. It is impossible, my friend. You can’t stop that spark of human nature, of human hope, of human reaching. Why the fuck should anything be illegal that you’re taking alone in your home? You might say, “Well, good God, this guy’s snorted 40 pounds of crank over a four-month period and killed all those neighbors,” and you’re gonna blame it on the crank.
No, blame it on maybe a mother and father who beat him or maybe [serving] 10 years of prison before—but no, you’re just gonna look at that one thing and say, “Ah, see there’s the problem, that’s why you have to legislate.” Bullshit! If you knew he was acting acting weird, call the fucking police. Deal with them yourself or goddamn move.
"I’m not going to be elected president. Please God, if there’s a single one of your [readers] who knows one-fiftieth of who I am, you know I’m not gonna be the president."
What’s been the highlight of your presidential run so far?
The highlight was within 15 minutes, the Libertarian Party contacted me and asked me to please come to them and talk to them because I said, when I announced, “I’ll either run under the Libertarian banner or my own.” But I’m not going to give [the Libertarians] any publicity whatsoever, until you know, we understand what our focus is. Because here’s my focus: I’m not going to be elected president. Please God, if there’s a single one of your [readers] who knows one-fiftieth of who I am, you know I’m not gonna be the president.
Then why are you running?
I do not believe that presidents change anything in this country. The day they take office, what happens? They have a thousand puppet masters, and you are the fucking puppet. But the process of creating one: Fuck yes. That changes America, that changes minds. Because in that chaos, there were people hitting a spark for a month and disappearing, but saying something that you fucking remember. And the next one comes up and you remember something that they said, maybe more. Suddenly, maybe, you’re going to get a fucking epiphany. Do you think we get epiphanies under presidents who are already elected? No, we get baby food. We get orchestrated and pre-scripted speeches, tweets.
Whatever you feel about President Trump, he’s certainly not pre-scripted.
No, I didn’t say anything about President Trump. In fact, I hope to fuck he gets it again, because I’m not. Because No. 1, he’s more entertaining than anybody else. Is he actually going to change things? Wait eight years, we’ll find out. Probably no. Did Obama change anything? Everything he did was fucking reversed. Please, God. No, what changes our hearts and minds is not the president, but the process.
What kind of change did you spur with your last run?
I changed the entire landscape of cybersecurity, which absolutely no one in the Libertarian Party had any fucking interest in whatsoever. I changed cybersecurity. I brought the FBI to the debate table on CNN for 15 fucking minutes—this is after I’d lost the nomination—and reamed them a new asshole about demanding that Apple give them a master key for every iPhone.
Two days later, they dropped their request. This is what I’m good at. I’m just one of those sparks that’s going to appear. And maybe if you listen with the right kind of ears, you’ll actually hear what I would like to say.
Were you going to sleep? Were you snoring? I heard you fucking snore, dude.
I’m quite awake.
Are you all right?
I’m 73, how can I fucking be all right?
What are your predictions for the midterms then?
I don’t care about the midterms. I’m really only interested in something that draws national attention on the subjects that need to have light shone on them. I don’t know who the fuck is running, neither do I care.
One of the more dramatic moments of the past number of months is you survived what you said was an assassination attempt. Did you ever get to the bottom of what happened?
If I did, I probably wouldn’t say anything, would I? That’s a very private affair. I mean, I could say it happened. I could say I got married, but if you say, “Well, what do you guys do in bed?”—I’m sorry, that’s a private affair, okay?
I didn’t realize, because you had been very public about the attempt.
Keep in mind, I’m 73 and I’ve been I’ve been dancing in this world, out of the box, where I trash everything, including every branch of the U.S. government, foreign governments. I do not play by anybody’s rules. I do as I damn well please, and I try not to interfere with anybody else. Live a life like that and people are trying to get rid of your ass. It happens constantly.
I am surrounded by reasonably competent security, though it’s nothing like the Russians, of course. You guys want to say hi? [Bodyguard 1, in the background: “Hey, sir!” Bodyguard 2: “How’s it going?”] These are all ex-military guys. And I have maintained this for nearly 30 years.
A lot of people in the crypto space now have bodyguards. Is it a difficult way to live, being surrounded by protection all the time, or do you enjoy it?
I ignore it. I mean, it’s been happening so long. What sort of life do you want to live: where you’re locked in a closet, armed to the teeth by yourself and your wife, or surrounded by people that will allow you to go see a movie?
How does cryptocurrency play into your campaign?
Because financial and economic freedom go hand-in-hand with personal freedom. It means that I am allowed to do permission-less transactions. I don’t have to ask anybody’s goddamn permission—not my bank, not a government, not a state agency. Not a board of directors. Fuck, I’m doing it. Permission-less. Now try wiring money to Lebanon. I mean, you’re going to be in an FBI cell for two days.
Sending money using Monero, for example. Oh, fuck me. No one’s ever gonna know who I am, who I sent it to, or what the fucking amount was. Now, which would you prefer?
"I don’t invest in cryptocurrencies.... It’s just too much trouble. Why the fuck would I go about investing in something when I can talk to you or watch Korean movies on Netflix?"
What kind of cryptocurrency do you personally invest in?
I don’t invest in cryptocurrencies. I never do, never have. My people do, the company does. But that’s the CEO’s decision. I’m not the CEO. I’m just a face, a figurehead, a non-entity, really.
Why do you avoid investing in crypto?
It’s just too much trouble. Why the fuck would I go about investing in something when I can talk to you or watch Korean movies on Netflix? Why the fuck at my age would I go to the trouble to even look at the price of something? Fuck.
In order to make money, in order to—
Listen. I have not made a penny—haven’t made a penny in 26 years. I live, literally, completely off of the kindness of friends. End of story. Really. I own nothing.
What about all that security? That has to cost some money.
That’s the kindness of my friends. They spend millions a year on me.
May I ask, what kind of friends? Very influential, powerful friends?
Oh, please God, they’re just friends, okay? And they’re kind.
I don’t have friends like that. I guess I’m missing out in that regard.
Don’t you think that possibly there may be massive financial value in being my friend? Not by getting money from me, but maybe, “Can I use your name for this?” “Yeah sure. Go ahead.” What do you think that’s worth? But it’s not some small thing, it’s some big thing, which if I were to sell my name, I would get $5 million for it. I just say, “Take it.” I have the right to do that. The government has no right to prevent me from doing that.
Neither does the government have the right to prevent my friends from paying for my rent, my food, my cars, my yachts, because they’re not mine, you understand? I call a friend: “I think you need a yacht, because I would like to use it.” Done. And then I have a yacht, but it’s not mine. And my friends are polite enough not to ever barge in on their yacht without permission from me.
That’s quite a life arrangement. How does one get to that point where you can have others paying your way?
I don’t know. You have to give up all control of your life, No. 1. You have to trust implicitly, 100 percent that the people whose hands you are putting your life in are not gonna turn around and fuck you. And a way you get around that is having lots of friends, all who hate each other and will not speak. That’s my solution.
That seems like a very complicated lifestyle. I mean, simple, yet—
It allows me not to pay taxes because I don’t make any money. It allows me to say what I damn well please to virtually any government agency because there’s nothing they can take away from me, because what do I own? Nothing. Even the watch on my arm. I have a note in a safe saying this is on loan from a gentleman who runs a jewelry store in Aptos, Calif. So you can’t even take my watch. You can take most of my shoes. People get tired of having to buy shoes to send to me. [Laughs.]
Going back to the presidential run, what have been the other highlights of the last few months?
Structuring the company, Team McAfee, so that I have don’t have to pay any fucking attention for two years, which has been difficult. But you may notice, Jimmy Watson took over as CEO. All of my responsibilities have been abandoned, with the exception of my videos—the tweet videos. Did you see the ones I put up today?
I didn’t, though I saw there was something about you doing bath salts.
Basically, I lay it all out about my bath salts use. Why? Because when I’m running for president, fuck me, they’re gonna dig it up anyway. So let’s answer it now in video, let people watch it, and you don’t need to ask another fucking question.
So you’re the most transparent candidate ever.
More than transparent. Please come live inside me while I run for president. Because I’m the only one telling the truth on one thing: I’m not gonna be president. Are you crazy? But I am, with your support, going to be able to talk to the American people about things that I believe, and if you have a brain and a heart—even a glimmer of each—you’re going to see the truth and support me in this. Let’s all of us, all of America, talk to ourselves. Let us sit in front of a fucking mirror, me and everyone, and let’s just discuss what we see. Can we do that? Please.
What will America see when it looks in front of a mirror?
Dude, I haven’t run yet. I’m not gonna know until I get my first convention and get a hundred questions. And, I’ll go, “Ah, so that’s what you guys are interested in.”
What were people thinking about during your last run for the presidency?
They were sure as fuck not thinking about cybersecurity, but they are now. But that was two years ago. Do you realize that tomorrow you’re a new fucking person? You wake up and maybe your wife walks out on you in the middle of the night with your best friend and your dog, if you have one, and your bank account. Your life is now in a totally different orbit around reality. So I don’t have a clue what they’re into now, but I will.
How do you intend to engage with the American public?
Dude, have you ever seen me on stage? Did I have any trouble engaging the 500, 600, 700 people there? I never do. If you look at any of my, literally, close to a thousand national television appearances—CNN, Fox News, ABC, CNBC, the major networks—never have I had trouble engaging my audience. Why the fuck do you think they keep asking me back? Because every time I go on, their ratings go through the fucking roof. ’Cause I’m gonna say some shit that you’re not gonna hear on most channels.
There’s a difference between appearing on CNN and being in a small-town diner in New Hampshire and hearing the concerns of the local people, right?
Of course, there is. But do you actually believe, sir, that sitting in a diner, even with someone you’ve maybe known for 10 years, who has a secret or a thousand secrets—“We went bankrupt. We can’t tell our neighbors.” “Susie got pregnant and ran off. We can’t tell our neighbors.” “Joey killed the teenage son of the guy next door, and we can’t tell anybody”…
That’s pretty dark.
…In a diner, even though you’re looking in the person’s eyes, the closer you are to them, the less you’re ever going to know about them. I’d rather have a conversation on the phone or in writing, where people are free to express themselves with less fear. I’d much rather go to a big-ass convention and have, after I have spoken to my tribe, someone stand up and say, “Sir, but…” and then see everybody in the fucking room clapping. That’s spontaneous. Dude, I know what I’m doing.
At the debates, instead of them going, “Mr. McAfee, when you become president, what is your first act?” I’m gonna go, “Ask me a rational, sane question, sir. You know, I know. These people in here know, the entire American public knows, I am not going to have a first day of the presidency because I can’t be elected. So please, if you have another question, I will answer it. If not, I’m going to take my two minutes and talk about something else.”
You won’t even be invited to the debates though.
Are you crazy? [Laughs.] Please, God, they invite Vermin Supreme to debate.
Are you talking about the Libertarian debates?
Listen, I know how to play these games. No one could get the FBI to talk to them. People wanted to debate them. When I said it, they had no fuckin’ choice. I called CNN and I said, “I want to debate the FBI. I want you to handle it, and I’m going to do it exclusively on CNN.” And he said, “Done.”
And you think you can do the same thing with the national—
Fuck me. That’ll be twice as easy.
"If I win the nomination, I’m going to start on a rant about the marginalization of third parties—and when I go on a fucking rant, the world listens."
You think you could get on a national stage with, say, Donald Trump and debate him?
If I worked on it, fuck yes. Are you crazy? This is if I win the nomination. Because if I win the nomination, I’m going to start on a rant about the marginalization of third parties—and when I go on a fucking rant, the world listens.
Obviously, the rise of Trump came from his being able to capture a lot of attention by ranting and—
Duh! That’s why I like the guy. He’s clear on crowd motivation. I think I’ve had more experience than him in real life, so I believe I would have the advantage in a debate.
So where does the campaign go next?
I’m still extricating myself from Team McAfee. And when that happens, I will decide what to do next. First, I will probably be choosing a campaign manager among the many who have offered themselves, all of them pretty serious people.
Is there anyone who could actually manage you? You seem pretty unmanageable.
The campaign manager doesn’t manage me. He manages the campaign, which I have no interest in anyway. So his management is basically going to be scheduling. It won’t be a difficult job at all. Getting me where I need to be.
We’re running out of time. My wife just sat down with me, with a longing expression in her eyes. I’m 73. This might be the last chance I get with a woman. So one more question.
As a 73-year-old, what parting words of wisdom do you have for the BREAKER audience?
Do what you love. Everything, completely, to the fullest of your hearts and minds. Whether it’s personal, family, or business. If you stick to that, you will have a mystery for a life and you will never regret a single act. Any other way of living is sad.
This interview has been edited and condensed. Photo: YouTube