The CEO of Overstock.com resigned from the company Thursday after a bizarre series of interviews where he said he was part of the “deep state” and developed a romantic relationship with Maria Butina, the woman accused of being a Russian spy, ahead of the 2016 election at the behest of the FBI. The resignation came after the company issued a truly wacky press release earlier this month titled “Comments on the Deep State” from company head Patrick Byrne where Byrne confirmed he had had a relationship with Butina and included references to “Men in Black,” “political espionage,” murder, and a reference to the “Omaha Rabbi,” which Byrne says is a moniker for investor Warren Buffet. On Thursday, Byrne appeared on Fox Business News to explain himself. It didn’t help. “I got some request, I did not know who the hell it came from and it was fishy and, three years later, I’m watching television and I realized who it was—it was Peter Strzok and [former FBI Deputy Director] Andy McCabe and that’s who these orders came from,” he told Fox Business during an erratic, emotional back-and-forth.
It’s a lot to take in. And it wasn’t going anywhere good. The company’s shares immediately nosedived last week—falling by more than a third—in response to Byrne’s “deep state” comments, prompting him this week to give up control of the company he founded and had run for two decades. “Though patriotic Americans are writing me in support, my presence may affect and complicate all manner of business relationships,” he said in a letter to shareholders Thursday. “Thus, 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.”
From the Washington Post:
Byrne handed over a number of text messages, emails and other documents to the U.S. Department of Justice earlier this year, according to an article published last week by Sara Carter, a journalist and Fox contributor. Carter also reported that Byrne has a low-level security clearance and told the FBI of his early encounters with Butina. The FBI, Byrne told Carter, gave him “vague instructions that it would be ok to get to know her better.” Byrne confirmed those details in a news release. An FBI spokeswoman declined to comment, as did Butina’s attorney, Robert Driscoll.
In an interview last week, Byrne told the New York Times “he wanted to shed light on what he saw as problems in the way top law enforcement officials had handled the government’s case against Ms. Butina.” In the Times interview, Byrne described himself as still “quite fond” of Butina. “Maria should go home and be president of Russia one day,’’ he said. “That is the best thing that could happen to Russia and the U.S.”