After abruptly butting into the Trump-Russia narrative in a surprisingly public way, and sending his company’s stock plummeting, the CEO of Overstock.com announced his resignation Thursday.
Patrick Byrne said in a statement that his claim of involvement in FBI investigations into Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had bubbled “haphazardly” into public view.
“Though patriotic Americans are writing me in support,” Byrne said, his presence atop the company “may affect and complicate all manner of business relationships.”
It all started with an Aug. 12 press release from his company titled “Overstock CEO comments on Deep State, Withholds Further Comment.” In it, Byrne said that he had at one point helped federal “Men in Black” investigate the “missing Chapter 1” of the Trump-Russia investigation.
But upon realizing that the investigation was “more about political espionage” against Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, “and to a lesser degree, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz,” Byrne said, he alerted his congressman and a “senior military officer.”
Byrne claimed that it was upon the advice of Warren Buffet (“my Omaha Rabbi”) that he then went to the press, including the right-wing journalist Sara Carter, who subsequently wrote about Byrne’s claims in a little-noticed late July article, and again on the day he went public.
The out-of-left-field Overstock press release appeared to rattle shareholders. Per Bloomberg, the public company saw its share price plummet by 36% in two days after the news, its largest drop in 11 years. (Upon Byrne’s resignation announcement, the stock ticked up.)
Byrne claimed in Carter’s July article that, between 2015 and 2018, he had a relationship with Maria Butina, who would later plead guilty to being an unregistered Russian agent. The relationship, Byrne told Carter, eventually turned romantic.
But at the same time, Byrne claimed in the article and later to the New York Times, he had been providing information about Butina to the government. Some of that information, he said, was exculpatory information that the government did not provide to Butina’s defense team.
The day before Carter’s article was published, Butina’s lawyer alleged in a letter to the DOJ inspector general that Byrne acted “at the direction of the government” by “kindling a manipulative romantic relationship” with Butina, and accused the government of withholding exculpatory information. His complaint was forwarded to the DOJ’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
In another article published Aug. 12, the same day Byrne went public, Carter wrote that Byrne claimed to have provided documents regarding the Russia probe and the FBI’s probe of Hillary Clinton to John Durham, the U.S. attorney for the district of Connecticut, who Attorney General Bill Barr has tasked with running his own investigation into the beginning of the Mueller report.
“I have all the answers,” Byrne told Fox Business after he went public
“There is a deep state like a submarine lurking just beneath the waves of the periscope depth watching our shipping lanes,” he added. “And a nuclear icebreaker called the USS Bill Barr has snuck up on them and is about to ram midship.”
Such statements were less than reassuring to shareholders.
“While I believe that I did what was necessary for the good of the country, for the good of the firm, I am in the sad position of having to sever ties with Overstock,” Byrne wrote Thursday.