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Overstock boss quits over 'Deep State’ affair with Russian spy — claims he did it all for ‘good of the country’

2019-08-23

Chairman and CEO of OverStock.com, Patrick M. Byrne, poses for a picture among exercise bikes ready to be repackaged in the warehouse of Overstock.com just outside Salt Lake City, Utah. (GEORGE FREY/ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Patrick Byrne says he’s so patriotic that he bedded a Russian femme fatale half his age “for the good of the country.”

The CEO of the popular retail website Overstock.com stepped down Thursday amid a bizarre controversy over his admission that he had an affair with Maria Butina, the gorgeous Russian spy who was convicted of secretly currying favor with right-wing figures.

Byrne, 56, earned unflattering headlines and sent Overstock’s stock plunging by 30% when he spoke out this month about the “Deep State” probe into Russian collusion with President Trump’s campaign that landed Butina behind bars.

The e-commerce titan, who still feels “fondly” towards Butina and said she could be a future president of Russia, quit in an odd letter in which he expressed no regrets about the three-year tryst.

In this Sunday, April 22, 2012 photo, Maria Butina, a gun-rights activist, poses for a photo at a shooting range in Moscow, Russia.
In this Sunday, April 22, 2012 photo, Maria Butina, a gun-rights activist, poses for a photo at a shooting range in Moscow, Russia. (Pavel Ptitsin/AP)

In fact, Byrne boasted that he acted patriotically by bedding the much younger red head, who hooked up with him at a right-wing conference.

“I believe that I did what was necessary for the good of the country, for the good of the firm,” he said in a resignation letter. "(But) I am in the sad position of having to sever ties with Overstock.”

The company’s stock bounced 10% after the news broke that Byrne was leaving. The executive’s meandering “I quit” letter may have given even more juice to that relief rally.

Along with saying he did what was best for the company, Byrne cryptically suggested there may be more damaging revelations to come.

“If the hors d’oeuvre that was served recently caused the market such indigestion,” Byrne said, “it is not going to be in shareholder interest for me to be around if and when any main course is served.”

He claimed he quit after discussing the matter with his rabbi, who told him to speak out. But Byrne also suggested that he had to keep quiet to prevent “civil violence (from) breaking out,” without elaborating on what in the world he was talking about.

“For three years I have watched my country pull itself apart," Byrne said. “While I knew many answers ... I set my red line at seeing civil violence breaking out.”

In this photo taken on Sunday, April 21, 2013, Maria Butina, leader of a pro-gun organization in Russia, speaks to a crowd during a rally in support of legalizing the possession of handguns in Moscow, Russia. Butina, a 29-year-old gun-rights activist, served as a covert Russian agent while living in Washington, gathering intelligence on American officials and political organizations and working to establish back-channel lines of communications for the Kremlin, federal prosecutors charged Monday, July 16, 2018.
In this photo taken on Sunday, April 21, 2013, Maria Butina, leader of a pro-gun organization in Russia, speaks to a crowd during a rally in support of legalizing the possession of handguns in Moscow, Russia. Butina, a 29-year-old gun-rights activist, served as a covert Russian agent while living in Washington, gathering intelligence on American officials and political organizations and working to establish back-channel lines of communications for the Kremlin, federal prosecutors charged Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP)

Byrne met Butina in 2015 at a libertarian convention in Las Vegas when she was 26. They struck up a romance based on a shared love for Russian literature and philosophy.

Or so he thought.

Butina was actually a Russian agent who was using her feminine wiles to infiltrate the National Rifle Association and other conservative American groups. She wound up being roped into special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference. She pleaded guilty to lesser charges and is serving 18 months in federal prison.

Byrne says he wound up cooperating with the probe, but he came to distrust the methods of investigators. He slammed the probe as evidence to the “Deep State," a term often used by far-right wing supporters of Trump to deride the probe.