It’s a tough job, but someone’s gotta do it. Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne resigned yesterday after writing about the “deep state” and his personal knowledge of its operations. In two interviews, on Fox and CNN, Byrne then alleged that the FBI made him an operative — and that James Comey had directed him to “rekindle a romantic relationship” with Russian spy Maria Butina.
It started with this wild interview on Fox Business Network, in which Byrne claimed to have gotten burned by the FBI after working for them. “There was political espionage conducted against Hillary Clinton, Rubio, Cruz, and Donald Trump,” Byrne tells the Bulls & Bears panel, and that it was run by Peter Strzok. Byrne then claimed that he’d been offered “a billion-dollar bribe” to keep quiet, that Warren Buffett told him to go public, and that all of this has to do with Strzok, McCabe and others:
— Maria Bartiromo (@MariaBartiromo) August 23, 2019
“Unbelievable” doesn’t begin to cover it. If that wasn’t bizarre enough, Byrne showed up on CNN later in the evening to tell his story to Chris Cuomo. By that time, the operation was being run on James Comey’s orders, and Byrne claimed that the FBI told him that Comey wanted him to do a Red Sparrow operation on Butina:
Former Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne said Thursday that the FBI directed him in the summer before the 2016 election to pursue a “romantic relationship with Maria Butina,” the Russian woman who was accused of seeking to win influence in powerful Republican circles at the behest of her country’s government. …
Byrne’s story, as told to CNN anchor Chris Cuomo on “Cuomo Prime Time,” and in earlier interviews broadcast on Fox Business News and Fox News, also includes allegations that top officials in the Obama administration, including James Comey, the former FBI director, approved of the bureau’s requests of him.
It has not been verified by the agencies, and spokespeople for the Justice Department and FBI declined to comment. Reached Thursday evening by CNN, Comey called Byrne’s claim “ridiculous.”
Who knew that selling tchotchkes qualified for reverse-honeypot assignments? I should’ve stayed in retail.
So … is this for real, or has Byrne suffered a mental breakdown? Based on his performances last night, one would be inclined toward the latter — but CNN’s report suggests that he might not be making some of this up, at least:
A US official told CNN on Thursday that Byrne met earlier this year with Justice Department officials and shared with them similar information about a romantic relationship with Butina encouraged by the FBI. The US official said that the Justice Department officials Byrne met with found aspects of Byrne’s story to be believable in part because he shared operational details that were not widely known.
Perhaps it was a little of both — some truth, buried in a mental breakdown. Later on CNN, Don Lemon suggested that he found Byrne credible, because … Hillary Clinton. Cuomo defended Byrne even more vigorously:
“We’re living in unprecedented times. You don’t know,” Lemon said of Byrne’s incredible story. ” Listen, it’s interesting because, speaking for the people at home as I’m watching it the first time, I’m like, what is he saying, because this whole deep state thing was supposed to be about setting up Donald Trump, yet he’s saying that Hillary Clinton was set up.”
“If I had even sensed that this was about a political agenda or some Infowars BS like that, I would never have him on the show,” Cuomo emphasized. “But I know him, I’ve tracked his career over the years, his website has got some stuff on it that is certainly controversial.”
Lemon seemed to think that characterization was a tad generous, however. “He is a conspiracy theorist of sorts,” Lemon said, which prompted a quick, sideways glance from Cuomo.
“He’s not some lunatic,” Cuomo quickly countered. “Again, his company was a $745 million company. I’m not saying you can’t be rich and cuckoo, I’m saying that he’s always sounded like that. When I interviewed him in 1998/’98. Look, either he’s got the names or he doesn’t.”
Come on, man. The man was crying on camera, lashing out at a journalist who criticized him, kept changing his story, and had trouble at times completing his thoughts. This is a man who was having some serious mental and/or emotional issues, and two major networks put him on for long stretches of time despite that.
That doesn’t entirely preclude all of Byrne’s claims about Butina and other aspects of his contacts with the FBI, but it raises some serious questions about his credibility. Cuomo tells Lemon that Byrne’s story should be easy to check out. “Either he’s got the names or he doesn’t,” Cuomo says. Byrne has names — he spent most of the evening throwing them around — but the question is whether any of this connects at all to reality. If it does, one would imagine that Michael Horowitz would connect those dots as part of his Inspector General probe into the FBI’s investigation of Russiagate. When none of this connects at all, though, will these networks apologize for exploiting Byrne’s mental issues for entertainment?