Former Overstock.com CEO Patrick Byrne left behind a cloud of confusion when he resigned in 2019 from the internet retailer he’d founded after panicking investors with his bizarre claims that he had romanced a Russian agent at the behest of “Men in Black” working for the United States government.
Now he’s back, with what he has described as his own personal “army,” touting what he claims is proof that Democrats stole the election from Donald Trump.
“I’ve funded a team of hackers and cybersleuths, other people with odd skills,” Byrne said in a Tuesday interview at One America News, where OAN personality Chanel Rion praised Byrne as the head of an “elite shadow cyber security team.”
As Trump’s chances of securing a second term dwindle down to nothing, Byrne has launched a media tour to promote his mysterious hacker team, appearing from an “undisclosed location” on OAN, Newsmax, and a series of far-fringe YouTube shows associated with the QAnon conspiracy theory movement. On Friday, a guest host on the popular Rush Limbaugh talk radio show praised Byrne’s allegations about voter fraud and proposed inviting Byrne on the show.
With Trump allies on his legal team and in conservative media scrambling for any evidence that Trump didn’t legitimately lose the presidential race, Byrne has become a hero to the MAGA crowd, despite his history of making off-the-wall allegations.
Byrne claims he’s funding teams of “hackers and crackers” who realized all the way back in August that Dominion voting machines could be used to steal the election from Trump. Since the election, those voting machines have figured prominently in Trump supporters’ allegations of fraud, despite the company’s repeated denials and any actual proof the voting tallies were changed.
The actual details of Byrne’s supposed hacker super-team, however, similarly thin.
“I’m a free agent, and I’m self-funded, and I’m funding this army of various odd people,” Byrne said in a Nov. 23 appearance on a podcast with a QAnon promoter who used the name InTheMatrixxx. “It’s really going to make a great movie someday.”
Asked for more details on his hacker team, Byrne referred The Daily Beast to his blog, “DeepCapture.” But the 40,000-word explanation on Byrne’s website focuses on his long-running feud with Wall Street short-sellers, and Byrne’s conversations with a mysterious financial whistleblower called the “Easter Bunny,” rather than on any election investigations team.
Byrne stopped responding to emails from The Daily Beast when asked whether any members of his hacker team would be available for interviews.
Despite his vague claims, Byrne says he’s been funneling allegations about the election to the White House and one-time Trump lawyer Sidney Powell for weeks. Byrne’s claims are similar to those Powell has made publicly, including an allegation that deceased Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez somehow meddled in the election seven years after his death.
“Sidney was the first to really get it, and to get what we’re saying is so vast, that you need kind of a very open-minded person to get it,” Byrne said in the InTheMatrixxx podcast.
In the aftermath of the election, Byrne has become the latest with a broad “tech” background to reinvent himself as an expert on voting machines. Byrne is joined in that niche by former 8kun administrator Ron Watkins, who left his position managing the site for its QAnon posts on Election Day and has since appeared on OAN as a so-called elections investigator.
During his post-election media tour, Byrne has made a series of other strange claims, including that he could be the reincarnation of an ancient Chinese monk.
“I love the Chinese, I speak Chinese, I think I’m the reincarnation of a Shaolin monk, maybe,” Byrne said on the “InTheMatrixxx” podcast.
Byrne has also encountered some other strange allegations on his media tour. In an appearance on a QAnon YouTube show hosted by a woman named “Cirsten W,” Byrne listened as his host claimed that Bill Clinton and late pedophile Jeffrey Epstein have been cloned.
Byrne’s habit of making oddball claims made headlines in 2019, when he was still the CEO of Overstock. Using company letterhead, Byrne issued a statement claiming that “Men in Black” figures in the federal government had urged him to romance Russian agent Maria Butina, who was at the time allegedly trying to infiltrate conservative circles as a gun rights activist. Overstock’s share price plunged, and Byrne eventually resigned after Overstock’s insurer refused to insure the company with Byrne at the helm.
A Senate Intelligence Committee report issued in August lays out a different view of Byrne’s interactions with Butina. In the report, Butina sees Byrne as a potential avenue to reach Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), then a presidential candidate. In a July 2016 email published in the committee report, Butina’s boyfriend, Paul Erickson, wrote that Byrne was “stalking” Butina after meeting her at a libertarian conference and claimed that Byrne made her a $1 million offer related to having his child.
“Byrne is a bachelor by choice and consequences of his intellectual gifts and limitations, but is now concerned with his mortality and family legacy,” Erickson wrote. “Since meeting Maria, he has found ever more creative ways to pitch a standing $1 million offer to her ‘to have a baby with him.’ He is utterly enamored of her imagined gene stock and believes that a baby would cement not only his familial line but also relations between our two nations.”
Byrne didn’t respond to The Daily Beast about the allegations made in Erickson’s email.
Byrne’s other allegations haven’t always paid off, either. In 2018, he lost a landmark defamation trial filed against him by a Canadian businessman who had been described on Byrne’s blog as a terrorist financier and drug and arms trafficker, with the plaintiff awarded $1.2 million in damages.