The strange tale of Overstock CEO and sometime FBI informant Patrick Byrne, who says the FBI gave him the “green light” to form a relationship with alleged Russian spy Maria Butina (we covered it here), now says that after he ended what became their sexual affair in March 2016 he was encouraged to rekindle their romance by someone “high enough” to make him agree in spite of his better judgment.
Byrne, who ultimately decided that Butina was what she presented herself to be — “an inquisitive student in favor of better U.S.-Russian relations and not an agent of the Russian government or someone involved in espionage or illegal activities” — did initially worry when she first approached him in 2015 her Russian ties could be problematic so he informed the FBI.
He was, he says, encouraged to form a relationship with her, one that became sexual and that ended in March 2016. He then says he was “ordered” to rekindle that relationship.
By his account, the 57-year-old CEO, who said he holds a low-level security clearance, reported the contact with Butina, 30, to the U.S. government. The FBI then gave him a “green light” to get to know Butina. The two began a romantic relationship, which ended in March 2016. Four months later, he said, the FBI asked him to rekindle the relationship with Butina.
“The second period, I did it because I was instructed to rekindle it. However, I decided that was not the right thing to do,” Byrne said. “But I was told where the orders came from, and the orders came from high enough that I accepted the orders. I just want America to know that I didn’t lay a finger on her that second time.”
Byrne said this second phase with Butina lasted until March 2017, and that he was swept up in “political espionage,” meeting with the FBI to discuss her.
The rekindling would have happened right around the time the FBI says they were beginning to open their investigation into the Trump campaign and any Russian connections it may have had (although Republicans believe their probe began much earlier). Butina, who is serving 18 months for failing to register as a foreign agent since she was being supported by a Russian politician with ties to the Kremlin, was never questioned by Mueller’s team.
So the question is: was Maria Butina just a naive student and, if she was, why would the FBI want Byrne to rekindle his romance with her right (and around the time Crossfire Hurricane was heating up) to the extent he was ordered by someone high up in the chain of command?
Byrne seems to think there’s a connection between the Russia probe and his relationship with Butina, telling journalist Sara Carter, “make sure you are sitting down because [information about the Russia probe is] about to get worse.”