Friday’s special guest at the January 6 committee hearings was “the Overstock person”—aka Patrick Byrne—identified by former White House Counsel Pat Cipollone, in a hearing last week, as one of the surprise guests at a long and tumultuous White House meeting last December, allegedly lending support to Michael Flynn and Sidney Powell’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results and keep Trump in power.
For Byrne, the founder and former CEO of the e-commerce pioneer Overstock, the journey to his involvement in January 6 has been an interesting one, to say the least. Last time he made national headlines, in 2019, it was to reveal that he’d had an on-again, off-again affair with convicted Russian agent Maria Butina, who used connections in the NRA to create back channels between Russia and the Trump campaign. (After 15 months in U.S. penitentiaries, she returned to Russia, where she serves in the lower house of parliament, the Duma, and proudly dons the letter Z.)
Until this week, though, few casual observers—and apparently not Cipollone—took much note of Byrne’s more recent activities, which include the conspiracy-focused website Deep Capture, a self-published book (The Deep Rig: How Election Fraud Cost Donald J. Trump the White House, By a Man Who Did Not Vote for Him), and a reality-warping appearance with General Michael Flynn and his brother Joe Flynn on The Alex Jones Show last November, discussing election fraud and “deep state attempt[s] to trigger a bloody civil war” on January 6. It’s remarkable, in a way, that the committee is only getting to him now.
So, how did Byrne—the son of insurance executive John J. Byrne, who turned around 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—get here?
1999: Byrne buys a majority stake in Salt Lake City business D2-Discounts Direct, rebrands it as Overstock, and takes over as CEO.
2000: Before Amazon and eBay popularize “drop-shipping,” Overstock allows third-party vendors to send items directly to customers through its website.
2002: Byrne takes Overstock public via “Dutch auction,” an unconventional process that cuts out investment-bank middlemen—and was emulated by Google when it went public in 2004.
2005: In a conference call with analysts, Byrne alleges a conspiracy of hedge funds, journalists, trial lawyers, the SEC, New York attorney general Eliot Spitzer, and others headed by a “Sith Lord” to “destroy our stock” and “whack up” the company. Soon after, Byrne files a lawsuit against a hedge fund and an equities research firm, alleging illegal collusion in short-selling the company’s stock. In a 2009 settlement, Overstock gets a $5 million payment from the hedge fund.
2007: Byrne files a lawsuit against several large investment banks, alleging illegal “naked” short selling to drive down the share price of Overstock and other companies. (In 2016, the claims against one defendant, Goldman Sachs, were dismissed; Merrill Lynch and other brokers paid a $20 million settlement.) Byrne claims that his work exposing naked short-selling resulted in death threats, and suggests that between 2005 and 2008, he aided FBI investigations related to those threats. He views the SEC’s 2007 ban on naked short-selling of financial firms that were affected by the mortgage-backed securities crisis as vindication of his warnings.
2014: In January, Overstock becomes the first major retailer to accept Bitcoin. (In August 2017, it begins accepting all major cryptocurrencies.) In October, Byrne parachutes in for the groundbreaking of Overstock’s new, peace-sign-shaped headquarters in suburban Midvale, Utah.
2015: Byrne launches Medici Ventures, an Overstock.com subsidiary focused on blockchain applications. In July, Byrne delivers a talk, “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 starts a romantic relationship.
2018: Butina is arrested in July and charged by the Department of Justice with acting as an unregistered foreign agent for the Russian government.
2019: Byrne resigns as Overstock CEO in August. He gives live interviews on both 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 starts 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 becomes friends with Michael Flynn.
November 2020: In an interview with OANN from an undisclosed location, Byrne says the election was rigged and that he has “funded a team of hackers and cybersleuths, other people with odd skills” to unearth the evidence.
December 2020: Byrne crashes the White House with Flynn and Sidney Powell and ends up in the infamous “unhinged” meeting with President Trump and his top advisers, debating election-fraud claims and their “Stop the Steal” strategy, where one idea reportedly floated was to use the National Guard to seize voting machines. Byrne later details the night’s events—Swedish meatballs were served— in his book.
February 2021: Byrne self-publishes a book, The Deep Rig, outlining his election-fraud claims. In June, a Byrne-financed “documentary” based on the book is released online.
July 2021: It’s reported that the America Project, a nonprofit group created by Byrne, has funded $3.25 million toward Arizona State Senate Republicans’ audit of the presidential vote in Maricopa County by Florida company Cyber Ninjas.
August 2021: Byrne (along with OANN and Newsmax) is sued by Dominion Voting System for $1.6 billion in a defamation case over their election-fraud claims.
November 2021: Byrne appears on The Alex Jones Show with General Flynn, blaming the deep state and antifa “false flag” operations for the violence on January 6, and claiming that a “peaceful” gathering on that day was his idea. “If you want to get to the bottom of January 6, come ask me,” he says.
July 15, 2022: Byrne testifies behind closed doors before the House select committee investigating January 6. He reportedly talks for eight hours.
How the testimony advances the Patrick Byrne saga remains to be seen. It will undoubtedly be interesting—and may even contain a revelation or two. In an interview from 2019, shortly after Byrne left the company, Overstock’s longtime chairman and current CEO, Jonathan Johnson, told me: “Patrick blew the whistle on Wall Street in 2004 and 2005—and people thought he was a nut. By 2008, a lot of people said he was a prophet. In 2019, he blows the whistle on the Men in Black ignoring Russian involvement in four different Presidential campaigns—and people are saying he’s a nut. I think it won’t take three to five years for him to be viewed as a patriot.”
Asked to comment on that statement, Johnson’s personal assistant emailed that, “Jonathan has not communicated with Patrick at all” in two and a half years. “A lot has happened,” she wrote, and Johnson—who previously received roughly $850,000 from Byrne in his failed 2016 Republican primary 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.”