Former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne has told media that he was ordered by the FBI to initiate a romantic relationship with imprisoned Russian gun activist Maria Butina, seemingly confirming claims made by her lawyer.
Byrne, who resigned from the online retail company on Thursday, explained to CNN’s Chris Cuomo that he had been asked by the FBI – on the orders of then-director James Comey – to “rekindle a romantic relationship” with Butina.
Taken aback by the claim, Cuomo interjected: “You believe that Jim Comey knew that you were being asked to do these things in the name of the United States government?”
Byrne responded in the affirmative, and even said that he was “specifically told” that the request came directly from Comey, who later played a central role in advancing the now-debunked theory that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign had “colluded” with the Kremlin.
And part 2: pic.twitter.com/8z1M4EZJWB
— Andrew Tavani (@andrewtavani) August 23, 2019
The disclosure is just one of several sensational claims made by Byrne. He has also confessed to being an unwitting accomplice in a plot initiated by “men in black” to spy on Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. He said he originally thought he was cooperating with a law enforcement investigation but later discovered he was participating in espionage.
Although he has declined to elaborate on his more incendiary accusations, Byrne’s statements regarding Butina seem to corroborate claims made by her lawyer, Robert Driscoll.
Earlier in August, Driscoll announced that Byrne had contacted him and revealed that he was acting as an FBI informant during his relationship with Butina. According to Driscoll, Byrne had reported on multiple occasions to the FBI 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.”
Butina, who arrived in the US on a student visa in 2016 before becoming active in pro-gun circles, pled guilty in April to acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the Russian government. Moscow has repeatedly denied any ties to the activist, saying that a case against her was politically motivated. Her guilty plea came after being held in solitary confinement for months. She is currently appealing her 18-month sentence.
This isn’t the first time that Byrne has come forward with shocking claims. He once compared his company’s involvement with crypto currencies to the creation of the polio vaccine, and has made numerous remarks about shady dealings in Wall Street. He has also accused journalists of using sex to secure access and sources for stories.