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Patrick Byrne’s bizarre journey from Overstock CEO to January 6

Friday’s special guest at the January 6 committee hearings was “the Overstock person” – aka Patrick Byrne – identified by former White House attorney Pat Cipollone, during a hearing last week, as the one of the surprise guests at a long and tumultuous White House meeting. last December allegedly backed efforts by Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell to overturn the 2020 election results and keep Trump in power.

For Byrne, the founder and former CEO of e-commerce pioneer Overstock, the journey to his involvement on January 6 has been interesting to say the least. The last time he made national headlines, in 2019, was to reveal he had a recurring affair with convicted Russian agent Maria Butina, who used connections within the NRA to create back channels between Russia and the Trump. country. (After 15 months in U.S. penitentiaries, she returned to Russia, where she serves in the lower house of parliament, the Duma, and proudly put the letter Z.)

Until this week, however, few casual observers – and apparently not Cipollone – have taken notice of Byrne’s more recent activities, which include the conspiracy-focused website Deep Capture, a self-published book (The Deep Rig: How voter fraud cost Donald J. Trump the White House, by a man who didn’t vote for him), and a heartbreaking appearance with General Michael Flynn and his brother Joe Flynn on The Alex Jones Show last November, discussing voter fraud and the “deep state attempt[s] to start a bloody civil war” on January 6. It’s remarkable, in a way, that the committee is only dealing with him now.

Then how did Byrne – the son of insurance executive John J. Byrne, who flipped a struggling Geico in the late 1970s; family friend of Warren Buffett; with a BA in Philosophy and Asian Studies from Dartmouth, and graduate degrees in Philosophy from Cambridge and Stanford – go for it?

Byrne’s politics defy easy categorization. In the two decades he led Overstock, from 2009 to 2019, he was often Utah’s largest individual political donor, giving to Republicans and Democrats. He was instrumental in a pro-school voucher movement in 2007 and a lawsuit in 2013 challenging Utah’s proposed ban on same-sex marriage. Overstock was a leader in workplace discrimination protections for LGBTQ workers and provided benefits for same-sex and transgender partners. In Utah’s predominantly Mormon business world, Byrne was a reliable joker. And a reliable purveyor of crazy sayings that were ultimately proven to be more or less correct.

Here’s a timeline of Byrne’s provocative — and often prescient — career as an entrepreneur, Wall Street whistleblower, FBI informant (unconfirmed), and alleged adviser to Trump on Jan. 6 planning.

1999: Byrne buys a majority stake in Salt Lake City-based D2-Discounts Direct, renames it Overstock, and takes over as CEO.

2000: Before Amazon and eBay popularized “drop shipping”, Overstock allowed third-party vendors to ship items directly to customers through its website.

2002: Byrne takes Overstock public through a “Dutch auction”, an unconventional process that cuts out investment banking middlemen – and was emulated by Google when it went public in 2004.

2005: In a conference call with analysts, Byrne alleges a conspiracy by hedge funds, journalists, litigators, the SEC, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer and others led by a “Sith Lord” to “destroy our stock” and “fuck up” the business. Shortly thereafter, Byrne files a lawsuit against a hedge fund and an equity research firm, alleging unlawful collusion in short selling the company’s stock. In a 2009 settlement, Overstock receives a $5 million payout from the hedge fund.

2007: Byrne files a lawsuit against several major investment banks, alleging illegal “naked” short selling to drive down the stock price of Overstock and other companies. (In 2016, charges against one defendant, Goldman Sachs, were dismissed; Merrill Lynch and other brokers paid a $20 million settlement.) He assisted FBI investigations related to those threats. He sees the SEC’s 2007 ban on naked short selling of financial companies that have been hit by the mortgage-backed securities crisis as vindication of his warnings.

2014 : In January, Overstock becomes the first major retailer to accept Bitcoin. (As of August 2017, it begins accepting all major cryptocurrencies.) In October, Byrne parachutes in for the grand opening of Overstock’s new peace sign-shaped headquarters in suburban Midvale, Utah. .

2015 : Byrne launches Medici Ventures, a subsidiary of Overstock.com focused on blockchain applications. In July, Byrne delivered a talk titled “Turtles All the Way Down: How the Crypto-Revolution Solves Intractable Problems on Wall Street” at FreedomFest, the annual libertarian conference in Las Vegas. Other speakers include Peter Thiel and presidential candidate Donald J. Trump. Byrne meets Maria Butina there and eventually begins a romantic relationship.

2018: Butina was arrested in July and charged by the Justice Ministry with acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the Russian government.

2019: Byrne resigned as CEO of Overstock in August. He gives live interviews on Fox News and Fox Business Network, revealing his affair with Butina, whom he claims to have reported to the FBI, and alleging a “deep state” scheme to conduct political espionage against Hillary Clinton, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz. , and Donald Trump. He sells his shares in Overstock and leaves the country.

2020-2021: Byrne begins promoting claims that the election was stolen from Donald Trump due to voter fraud. He speaks at anti-COVID-vaccination events to promote conspiracy theories and befriends Michael Flynn.

November 2020: In an interview with OAN from an undisclosed location, Byrne said the election was rigged and he had “funded a team of hackers and cyber sleuths, other people with weird skills” to find out. the evidence.

December 2020: Byrne crashes the White House with Flynn and Sidney Powell and finds himself in the infamous “lopsided” meeting with President Trump and his top advisers, debating allegations of voter fraud and their “Stop the Steal” strategy, where an idea would have launched was to use the National Guard to seize the voting machines. Byrne later details the events of the night—Swedish meatballs were served—in his book.

February 2021: Byrne self-publishes a book, The deep platform, outlining his allegations of voter fraud. In June, a “documentary” financed by Byrne and based on the book is released online.

July 2021: It was reported that the America Project, a nonprofit group created by Byrne, funded $3.25 million for Arizona Senate Republicans’ audit of the presidential election in Arizona County. Maricopa by Florida company Cyber ​​Ninjas.

August 2021: Byrne (along with OANN and Newsmax) is being sued by Dominion Voting System for $1.6 billion in a defamation case over their allegations of voter fraud.

November 2021: Byrne appears on The Alex Jones Show with General Flynn, blaming Deep State and “false flag” antifa operations for the Jan. 6 violence, and claiming that a “peaceful” rally that day was his idea. “If you want to go deep into January 6, come ask me,” he says.

July 15, 2022: Byrne testifies behind closed doors before the House select committee set up to investigate on January 6. He would have spoken for eight hours.

It remains to be seen how the testimony advances the Patrick Byrne saga. It will no doubt be interesting and may even contain a reveal or two. In a 2019 interview shortly after Byrne left the company, longtime chairman and current Overstock CEO Jonathan Johnson told me, “Patrick exposed Wall Street in 2004 and 2005 — and people thought he was crazy. In 2008, many people said he was a prophet. In 2019, he denounces the Men in Black ignoring Russia’s involvement in four different presidential campaigns – and people say he’s crazy. I think it won’t take three to five years for him to be considered a patriot.

Asked to comment on the statement, Johnson’s personal assistant emailed that “Jonathan has not communicated with Patrick at all” for two and a half years. “A lot happened,” she wrote, and Johnson — who previously received around $850,000 from Byrne during his failed 2016 Republican bid for Utah governor — declined to “reaffirm his comment or comment further on the situation.” Last week the company also tweeted: “Overstock has no association or affiliation with Patrick Byrne.”

Mary Cashion

The author Mary Cashion