• Donald Trump may have stunned everyone with his staggeringly erratic debate performance on Tuesday night, but is it possible it was strategic?
  • If the president was hoping something would steer media attention away from the contents of his tax returns, as reported by The New York Times two days prior to the debate, he certainly got it. Days after the debate, that’s still what the lion’s share of the coverage is focused on.
  • Nevertheless, an ex-Watergate prosecutor thinks there may be enough material in the tax returns to prosecute the president — and possibly jail him.

Forty-eight hours later, everyone is still talking about President Donald Trump’s performance during his first debate with rival Joe Biden — a debate that saw an irascible Trump unceasingly interrupt, interject, talk over Biden and moderator Chris Wallace, and basically do everything except give the appearance of a candidate who’s confident he’s winning. Even if he’s your man, it’s hard to see how Trump supporters alike could acknowledge that it was a watchable or enjoyable debate. The angry tenor left viewers bewildered, spiked peoples’ blood pressure, and left so many people feeling like they’d just endured something grueling by the time it was all over.

One thing that’s interesting to consider, though, is the following: What if this gonzo performance from the president was actually kind of strategic? Because we actually have reason to believe he did this all on purpose, and you only have to look no farther than new remarks from an ex-Watergate prosecutor who thinks it’s not outside the realm of possibility that Trump, as well as his daughter Ivanka, could end up in jail someday.

Trump, for his part, actually thinks he “won” Tuesday night’s debate. He tweeted as much on Thursday:

Let’s not forget, though, the debate came a mere two days after The New York Times on Sunday dropped its bombshell expose revealing for the first time the contents of the president’s long-hidden tax returns, which Trump has steadfastly resisted making public for years now. There’s only so much capacity the media has to devote to this or that particular story, though, and one thing Trump’s debate performance did that’s arguably helped the president, relatively speaking, is nudge the stories about his tax returns over to the side while the aftermath of the first debate is now front-and-center.

Perhaps I’m giving the president too much credit, and his debate performance was exactly what it appeared to be on the surface. And besides, whatever the reason, some experts think that other shoes could still drop stemming from Trump’s tax returns.

Nick Akerman, an Assistant Special Watergate Prosecutor with the Watergate Special Prosecution Force under Archibald Cox and Leon Jaworski, actually suspects that Trump’s tax returns could conceivably lead to jail time for Trump and his daughter.

“Tax evasion is a five-year felony,” Akerman told CNN during a recent interview. “It’s a pretty serious crime, and the more money that’s stolen, the longer you go to jail for.

“It looks like Trump has done a whole series of activities that could qualify as tax fraud, not tax avoidance … Tax fraud, however, is lying about what your income was, what your deductions are, and there are just a couple of items that stand out in that report that appear to go beyond tax avoidance.”

Andy is a reporter in Memphis who also contributes to outlets like Fast Company and The Guardian. When he’s not writing about technology, he can be found hunched protectively over his burgeoning collection of vinyl, as well as nursing his Whovianism and bingeing on a variety of TV shows you probably don’t like.