If what you already know about the FBI’s investigation into President Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia has you wondering what can come next, “make sure you are sitting down because it’s about to get worse,” said Patrick Byrne, the philanthropist and CEO of the mega online retail chain Overstock.com.
Byrne revealed never published details about his intimate relationship with the Russian gun right’s activist and libertarian, Maria Butina, who is now serving out her sentence after pleading guilty in 2018 to working as a foreign agent in the U.S. without registering.
In an interview several weeks ago, Byrne recounted first meeting Butina at Freedom Fest 2015. He described the relationship that developed between the two and revealed that he had initiated contact in July, 2015 with the FBI after his first meeting with Butina. He also disclosed that he met twice with Justice Department attorneys in April, 2019 giving a total of seven hours of interviews on the separate occasions. A source directly familiar with the interviews, confirmed those meetings took place.
Butina’s lawyer, Robert Driscoll, also confirmed the relationship between Byrne and Butina. Driscoll stated that he also had relayed the information to the FBI and prosecutors earlier during his trial, and asked repeatedly about any Brady material -exculpatory information – that the bureau may have collected from Byrne on Butina, to no avail. The bureau denied it had any information regarding Byrne and Butina’s relationship, said Driscoll.
On Thursday, Driscoll sent a letter to United States Attorney for the District of Connecticut John Durham, who was appointed by Attorney General William Barr to investigate the FBI’s handling of the Russia investigation; Inspector General Michael Horowitz, who is conducting an investigation into the bureau’s origins of the Trump probe and Corey Amundson, with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Professional Responsibility.
“In writing, the government denied the existence of any such Brady material,” Driscoll stated in his letter. “Orally, during debrief sessions with Maria, I directly told the government that I believed Patrick Byrne, Chief Executive of Overstock.com, who had a sporadic relationship with Maria over a period of years prior to her arrest, was a government informant. My speculation was flatly denied. My associate Alfred Carry made similar assertions in a separate debrief that he covered and was also rebuffed.”
“Mr. Byrne has now contacted me and has confirmed that he, indeed, had a ‘non-standard arrangement’ with the FBI for many years, and that beginning in 2015 through Maria’s arrest, he communicated and assisted government agents with their investigation of Maria. During this time, he stated he acted at the direction of the government and federal agents by, at their instruction, kindling a manipulative romantic relationship with her. He also told me that some of the details he provided the government regarding Maria in response was exculpatory—that is, he reported to the government that Maria’s behavior and interaction with him was inconsistent with her being a foreign agent and more likely an idealist and age-appropriate peace activist.”
“As an adjunct university professor and CEO of a public company, Mr. Byrne is a credible source of information, who from my view has little to gain but much to lose by disclosing a sporadic relationship with Maria. His claims are worthy of investigation. Indeed, he has much to say about the government’s handling of Maria’s case that go far beyond the Brady issue I raise in this letter. Regardless of these other issues, which I suggest you pursue directly with him, I was told the following by Mr. Byrne,” Driscoll’s letter states.
Byrne’s decision to come forward didn’t come lightly. However, he said it was necessary after watching what had transpired between the FBI, the intelligence community and the probe into President Trump’s campaign over the past several years.
“It was something I knew I had to do,” he told this reporter. “Those running the operation were not honest and in the end I realized I was being used in some sort of soft coup.”