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CUOMO PRIME TIME

Former Representative Walsh "Strongly Considering" Challenging Trump; Scaramucci: Trump "Has Gone Past The Bounds Of Normalcy"; Overstock CEO Resigns After Revealing His Romance With Accused Russian Agent Maria Butina. Aired 9-10p ET

Aired August 22, 2019 - 21:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[21:00:00] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST, ANDERSON COOPER 360: --each doing their version of the Foxtrot on The Ridiculist.

And the news continues. Want to hand it over to Chris for CUOMO PRIME TIME.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN HOST, CUOMO PRIME TIME: All right, thank you, funny guy, Anderson. I am Chris Cuomo and welcome to PRIME TIME.

There is a wild story breaking on our watch. Take a look at the internet. Put in Patrick Byrne, Overstock.com, everyone's talking about it. No, don't do it now. Keep watching me.

We are trying very much to get Mr. Byrne ready to be in position at a studio to tell you this story, the CEO of Overstock, he just resigned today. And he says the reason he had to, is he didn't want to get the company involved with certain government matters that he's been involved with.

Like what? He says that he was involved with the Russian spy named Maria Butina. Yes, that one, the one that we've all been hearing about. They had a romantic affair, but then the government came to him, and asked him to be involved in that, and all of these other operations involved in the election.

That is one of the wildest stories I've ever heard. I was just on the phone with him. And he said, "You have heard nothing."

Remember, this isn't some fringe guy. He does have a website I want to ask him about it. But this guy ran one of the most known companies in this country. We've got to hear this story. We're reaching out for response from the U.S. government. We haven't heard anything yet.

We also have a 2020 alert for you tonight. Turns out more Republicans may be joining Operation Primary Trump as the drumbeat grows louder within that party to find someone better. Is that real? Is it practical?

Anthony Scaramucci is on a mission of his own to get his old boss out. I haven't talked to him since his big switch on television. What is this really about for him? And what does he really think is possible? And is it worth it with the beat-down he's getting from people who used to be his friends?

This is going to be an interesting night. Let's get after it.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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CUOMO: All right, while I'm waiting on Patrick Byrne, I'm going to bring in Anthony Scaramucci, because a growing number of Republicans have said they've had it, you know, this - not just a Never-Trumper Movement, but this is about like Republicans of conscience, and they're saying that he has to primary.

We heard about former Massachusetts Governor, Bill Weld, he's formally announced his candidacy.

But today, former Illinois Congressman, and kind of a fire-breather, Joe Walsh, he's now best-known on the radio, he expressed serious consideration for a run. And also, former South Carolina Rep, Mark Sanford is also still signaling interest with a tweet at least, about an upcoming trip to Iowa.

How real is that? How resonant would it be?

Let's bring in one of America's newest Never-Trumpers.

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TEXT: ONE ON ONE.

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CUOMO: Says he was wrong to support the President, now wants to do whatever it takes to make it right, former White House Communications Director, Anthony Scaramucci. It's good to see you.

ANTHONY SCARAMUCCI, FORMER WHITE HOUSE COMMUNICATIONS DIRECTOR, AUTHOR, "TRUMP, THE BLUE-COLLAR PRESIDENT": I'm not - I'm not - I'm actually not a Never-Trumper. But that's fine.

I mean I just looking at the situation and I would just tell your viewers, if you were on the board of a company, and you had a CEO acting this erratic, and literally in a - in a gigantic meltdown, like I was describing to John Berman, it's like a Chernobyl situation, you would have to replace that CEO.

He's running the Free World and he's the leader of the greatest longstanding--

CUOMO: Yes. But you know what you guys say, Anthony.

SCARAMUCCI: --Republican democracy.

CUOMO: You used to say this to me. SCARAMUCCI: And he's just so--

CUOMO: And now his new defenders say it. All he's--

SCARAMUCCI: So, I'm not - I'm not a Never-Trumper.

CUOMO: Well but I'm saying I say Never-Trumper because you're saying you don't want him to be in there anymore or you want another Republican, you want somebody else. But--

SCARAMUCCI: No. We got to - we got - Chris--

CUOMO: --forget about the label.

SCARAMUCCI: --you got to get - you got to get rid of the guy, the guy's whack (ph).

CUOMO: Deal with the defense. They'll say "No, Anthony."

SCARAMUCCI: Go ahead.

CUOMO: "You don't have to get rid of him." What you used to say is this, and what his defenders now say is this.

"He's just joking. He's living in your head rent-free. He's messing with you because he talks in a way that you guys can't handle. But he's about his results. And you want to attack his style. And all the while he's doing everything he says, and you crazy people, who can't handle his frankness, you get all upset, snowflakes."

SCARAMUCCI: I mean I'm - we must be living in the twilight zone because you're like taking the other side of this. But let me just say the following, OK? It's not even about that, OK?

He has gone past the bounds of normalcy on so many different things. But the number one thing, and the breaking point for me, was the full- on racism. And so, I know - I'm not going to use that like a - and debate whether or not he's a racist.

But when you're sending out the racist tweets, and then you're piling on, and you're standing there in El Paso with your finger up in the air like this, in that detached way, it's a sign that he's gone full- blown crazy.

And so, so as a responsible citizen in the United States, you can't look at all of that stuff, and say, "It's OK." Moreover, we both know people inside the building that are whispering to each other that "OK, those guys are right. Are they going to come for our help?"

I mean it's like a hostage crisis inside the building. They absolutely hate the guy's guts, but they're scared out of their minds. Look at what he did to me and my wife this week. He's - he's lighting me and my wife up on his 150 million Twitter social media/accounts, it's just crazy.

I'm a private citizen, Chris. He - he may not have early-stage dementia. But he has full-blown early-stage fascism. He's going after private citizens with the power of the Presidency. So, it's for this, and so many--

CUOMO: Yes, I'm well aware.

SCARAMUCCI: --reasons--

[21:05:00] CUOMO: What I'm telling you, Anthony, is does it make it worth it to you?

SCARAMUCCI: --that the - that the red--

CUOMO: You're getting a little bit of a taste now of what the rest of us--

SCARAMUCCI: Worth it in what way, Chris?

CUOMO: --have to deal with? Look, he's got a lot of power.

SCARAMUCCI: I'm - I'm totally fine. Hey--

CUOMO: And when he tells his people "You're crazy and you need to be attacked--"

SCARAMUCCI: Hey, hey.

CUOMO: --it doesn't feel good.

SCARAMUCCI: OK. Chris, you know, you and I are wired pretty similarly. We grew up in the same neighborhood, roughly, and we're wired the same way. I'm a very resilient guy. I mean that stuff is like nonsense to me. It washes right over me. At the end of the day, I reflect back all that stuff. I don't absorb any of that stuff.

People want to be dishonest on behalf of the President, and they want to twist themselves into an Auntie Anne Pretzel, and they want to lose their entire personal integrity, and their life's personal history, to try to explain what he's doing.

I - I couldn't defend those racist tweets on Bill Maher that night. And so, the very next night he's coming after me and my family. This guy is a full-blown demagog that needs blind obeisance as opposed to just traditional loyalty.

And not only that, forget about all that, just look at what's going on, exactly as I predicted, once he gets hit a little a couple times, because he's a paper tiger bully, he just starts to unravel like a complete basket case.

So, this week were the Chosen One, the King of the Jews, we're going to - we're going to stop a State visit to Denmark--

CUOMO: But Anthony--

SCARAMUCCI: --one of our allies over some dispute over Greenland. I mean-- CUOMO: Yes. Listen, I'm well aware.

SCARAMUCCI: It's - it's - it's not--

CUOMO: Now they're selling T-shirts.

SCARAMUCCI: --"Oh, yes, he's speaking frankly."

CUOMO: Now they're selling T-shirts that has Greenland--

SCARAMUCCI: It's - it's crazy.

CUOMO: --as part of the United States.

SCARAMUCCI: It's crazy.

CUOMO: But leaves out Puerto Rico as a U.S. territory. But look, that's OK. People are calling you, Anthony. We both know it.

SCARAMUCCI: Crazy.

CUOMO: And saying, "Anthony, what are you doing? This is our guy. You don't want a Democrat in there. What about the tax cuts? What about the muscular foreign policy?"

SCARAMUCCI: Chris, well I'm a - I'm a - I'm an - I'm an entrepreneur.

CUOMO: "Sure his style is off. Sure we don't like him. But you need to keep him. Be quiet."

SCARAMUCCI: OK. Well - well, Chris, first of all, I'm an entrepreneur. What entrepreneurs do is they try to curve the reality in the universe towards something that they see in the future.

George Herbert Walker Bush had a 91 percent approval rating coming out of the first Iraq War, lost the election in 1992.

This guy's going to lose, OK? He's got a 62 percent disapproval rating, according to AP, and the whole thing is fracturing on him. It's like I said. He--

CUOMO: Who's going to beat him?

SCARAMUCCI: --he's like the Green Witch. Once the water hits him - well let's - let's go into the early fall. I don't think anybody is going to make significant announcements right now. Maybe Joe Walsh is going to make an announcement prior to Labor Day.

CUOMO: You think Bill - you think - you think Walsh--

SCARAMUCCI: But I think that there's going to be a batch of--

CUOMO: --has a chance at primarying Donald Trump?

SCARAMUCCI: I - I think - I think Joe Walsh has a chance to be Eugene McCarthy, circa 1968, and break the door down of the nonsense, and I do predict that the President will dematerialize from the Office by March of - of 2020. There's no way--

CUOMO: Really?

SCARAMUCCI: --he's going to stand for re-election when his approval rating - or - watch his approval rating go into the low - the low 30s, high 20s. And when that takes place--

CUOMO: Why would that happen?

SCARAMUCCI: --it's sort of game over. And, by the way, we--

CUOMO: He's been - he's been rock-steady--

SCARAMUCCI: --why would that happen? Because there are--

CUOMO: --no matter what he says and does.

SCARAMUCCI: --patriotic - he's - well - no, no, go look at the AP number tonight. 62 percent of the country disapproves of him. But - but he - he's rock-steady in some ways, but he's stuck at 42 percent on the--

CUOMO: Yes, that's true.

SCARAMUCCI: --RealClearPolitics approval rating. But whatever, we can debate all that. But here's the bottom line.

A couple of patriotic Americans are going to come forward, not ex- cabinet members or things like that, some people of standing inside the administration up on Capitol Hill are going to say, "Hey, it's time to pull this guy. This is complete and total nonsense."

And so, when that happens I predict that the approval rating will drop because even the people in his base are going to want to win in 2020. And so, the way to win in 2020 for the Republicans is to pick a normal person that abides to many of the President's policies.

The country is not ready for socialism. I certainly don't want that. I'm a Republican. Even though I'm being ostracized right now--

CUOMO: Yes.

SCARAMUCCI: --by the Chairwoman of the National Republican Party, who I happen to be, and was a donor to, so I - I find that sort of ironic. But we've turned the whole thing into a personality cult.

So - so here's what will happen. Like-minded citizens that are patriots are going to come forward. We're going to articulate what is actually going on, why he's acting this way, why he's dissembling in the public. And - and hopefully, there'll be a few people inside that say, "You know what? It's totally true."

And then, I predict his app - approval ratings will crash, and he'll likely leave the race, because a narcissist like that is not going to want to subject themselves--

CUOMO: All right.

SCARAMUCCI: --to a humiliating defeat coming in - in 2020 so.

CUOMO: All right.

SCARAMUCCI: And, by the way, Chris, we know each other a long time.

CUOMO: Long time!

SCARAMUCCI: I may be a terrible Communications Director, but I'm a very organized entrepreneur. Watch me start this thing up over the next three months.

CUOMO: I'll be watching. I don't think you were a terrible Communications Director. I think, in retrospect, you were saying things to the media, and to him, he should have listened to.

SCARAMUCCI: Well I - obviously I didn't--

CUOMO: But we'll see what happens.

SCARAMUCCI: Obviously I was.

[21:10:00] CUOMO: We'll see how good you are as a Nostradamus. And do me a favor. Thank you for rushing out there to make this interview. Stick around, if you can, and listen to Patrick Byrne. He's made it to the studio.

This is the former - former - Anthony knows him, but the former Overstock.com CEO, now it's just Overstock, but there he is. We're going to take a quick break. When we come back, he has a story to tell you, the likes to which I have never heard. Stay with us.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: Now look, I don't say I've never heard anything like this very often, but I've never heard anything like this.

The CEO of Overstock, we all know that company. I mean the latest market cap is like $745 million, and that's after it had couple of rough years here, he resigned today, but he says it's not about the business.

We'll talk to him about all of this. He's waiting. He's standing by right now. He says he didn't want to get the company tangled up with certain government matters. Like what? What is he involved in?

He says he had a romantic relationship with the accused Russian agent Maria Butina. You've heard that name. You've seen her face with the red hair a million times.

[21:15:00] He says that he wasn't just involved with her, and someone had to tell him about it. He says the government knew, and that the government was encouraging him in ways that he wasn't even comfortable with, and that it reached in to the election, and that he knows things about what was done by our government, regarding Hillary Clinton, and our President.

Now what does the U.S. government say? A U.S. official tells CNN that Mr. Byrne did share information with them, concerning the early days of the Russia investigation, in a meeting earlier this year with officials there. They found aspects of the story to be believable. Why? Because he shared operational details that were not widely known.

We haven't heard from the FBI. We're reaching out to them. The DOJ didn't want to say anything to us about this yet, but we're reaching out. We're covering our bases.

Patrick Byrne is not just some Righty-fringe player. This guy ran a real company, and he's known in this country. He went to - just so you get an idea of who Patrick is, just so that - that they remember who you are, Dartmouth, Cambridge, Stanford.

He - I did one of the first stories about Overstock.com then, back in the late 90s, when people were saying he - he'll never sell this stuff online. He did a Dutch auction to sell his company, bring it public. He was known as a renegade, and he'd become a wild success, and now this.

So Patrick, before we get in, here - you told your story on Fox News earlier. That's where I heard this. I had read a little bit about it last week, but nothing like what you're saying now.

One of the main things of pushback that have come back - not from your company. Company put out a statement saying "We respect you, and thank you for your work, and we wish you well going forward."

You have a website, and people are saying, "Oh, he's got a website. It's filled with conspiracy theories. That's what this is about." Respond to that. And then, let's hear your story.

PATRICK BYRNE, FORMER OVERSTOCK CEO: In - in 2008, the Weblog's Internet Award Winner for the Best Business Blog in America was DeepCapture.com. It also won the Xmarks (ph) Award Internet - poll for the Best Blog on Corruption in the United States. That were internet- wide polls and it because - it was for the reporting that DeepCapture did on the 2008 financial crisis.

So, are we really at the point of people, you know, this is silly. This is - it's already a distraction. Let me give you the main event, Chris. Chris, I'm glad you remember me. I didn't know if you remembered me 20 years later. I always remembered our - there or two together (ph) fondly. Here's the main event.

I did I - in 2015/2016, I took some requests from the - from the - the FBI, and it's the only way - time I want to say that. It's Men in Black because they're not the bad guys here. You'll understand. They're not the problem here.

They passed a request to me from someone up above to do some stuff for about 250 - 2015 - 2016. I never know who it was.

Last summer, watching television, watching Congress rip apart some people, I - some - put some details together, and I figured out who'd sent me the request. The man's name was Peter Strzok. That mean anything?

CUOMO: How do you know that?

BYRNE: Oh, it's already been confirmed to me. It's already been confirmed it came from Peter Strzok. It's been more recent--

CUOMO: By whom?

BYRNE: By federal authorities. So, I--

CUOMO: Because we haven't heard anything from the--

BYRNE: --listen I - listen I - Chris--

CUOMO: --government yet, confirming this.

BYRNE: Chris, I'm not in the kindergarten business. If we're in the kindergarten business, if I'm here trying to convince you guys this happened, that's not the business. I'm not in the convincing business.

CUOMO: OK.

BYRNE: I'm in this business of - Warren Buffett told me I have to come forward. He said, "You let the Feds do their work. You have to come forward with what you know to the American people," so I'm coming forward.

CUOMO: OK.

BYRNE: I'm not in the convincing business. I'm in the "I will do everyone a favor, open the door, and let you know what happened" business, if you want, I'd be happy to do that.

CUOMO: Go ahead. What did they want you to do?

BYRNE: There were - the main event is this. So, first of all, you - your guy - somebody had it wrong. It isn't that I was dating Maria Butina, and then they came to me, and asked me to do anything. It's that I met her. I - Maria Butina is not the main event here. Let me give you the main event here.

I was involved in helping them in that period, and what I thought was law enforcement, and it turned out to be political espionage, conducted against Hillary Clinton, Marc - minor, Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, major, Donald Trump, primarily a political espionage against Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.

This isn't a theory of mine. It's not - I was in the room when it happened. I was part of it. I probably think--

CUOMO: Why you? And what did they want you to do? What was the political espionage?

BYRNE: I helped them two times in the past. Once a friend of mine got murdered, a basketball player, my closest friend named Brian Williams. If you Google his name and my name in Sports Illustrated, you'll find a story about this, and how I helped bring them - mentions how in a way I helped bring the murderer to justice.

Also, you probably know about on that fight I got, I was kind of a one-man Occupy Wall Street '05 to '08. I figured out--

CUOMO: I remember.

BYRNE: Well that work I did ended up being and triggered a federal investigation that put 200 indictments, and about a 100 people went to prison.

[21:20:00] And the last I heard from them, they actually told me, you know, you're going to have to live the - you're going to see handcuffs come out this week, and live the rest of your life knowing everyone we arrest knows your fingerprints on this problem.

That was the Christmas of '09, and three days later, they arrested the guy named Raj - Raj Rajaratnam or whatever they--

CUOMO: So, what did they want you to do this time?

BYRNE: Well I met Maria Butina. Have you seen that - have you seen? There's a video that's gotten played a lot of Maria Butina asking at some kind of conference, asking Donald Trump--

CUOMO: Right. We'll - keep talking.

BYRNE: OK.

CUOMO: We'll play the video for people to remind them. But keep talking.

BYRNE: When you see - if - when you look that up, you'll see that I was also a speaker at that conference, and when you do the research. And what you'll find - a few days earlier, and Maria Butina came up to me after my speech, first to talk to me about guns. She was part of a group of people waiting for like autographs and

stuff, and she came to talk. She told me about some Gun Rights group. I'm not into guns. I'm a small-L Libertarian, small-R Republican. I don't - I'm not a Republican.

CUOMO: OK.

BYRNE: OK? I used to be Hillary's biggest donor once in Utah. It's from 15 years ago.

CUOMO: OK.

BYRNE: Anyway, I decided - I brushed her off about the guns. She came - anyway, I'm going into too much detail. She ended up - she came back the second time, and said, I have a message for you from Russia.

There's a group of people who know about you in Russia, and they're liberals, and we talk about liberalism. We know about your relation with Milton Friedman. We watch your movies on, your videos on--

CUOMO: The big economist. Go ahead.

BYRNE: --the economist.

CUOMO: Yes.

BYRNE: We talk about you on YouTube - you have videos on YouTube, Patrick, about liberalism, we watch them. And I'm here to invite you to come to Russia to speak at the Central Bank to speak on Bitcoin and - but then I'm going to take you to the Altai Mountains to a resort.

It'll be shut down for three days. There will be 45 people from across the Russian power structure, liberals, believe it or not, they're liberals, and they want you to come in, and they want - want to talk about higher and--

CUOMO: So then what happens?

BYRNE: I reported out a security clearance at the time, a very low- level security clearance. They - when you get a - and like a million Americans do, and I do some - some minor work on foreign policy, I used to, 15, years ago, and of some very minor work.

But when you get one of those, you - you're signing a piece of paper that says "When a bombshell Russian comes up and tells you something like this, you have to report it."

CUOMO: So you went to the government. And what did they say?

BYRNE: Next thing I heard was from the FBI. And it was - and some people I had not heard from in years. And it was - I'm really going into way too much detail when I get through this story.

The main event is they encouraged me. They gave me green light to build a relationship, I thought, on the grounds that I might be able to yenta (ph) her in, to some senior people in foreign policy who have an interesting afternoon talking to her. She--

CUOMO: So, they made you like a source, Patrick, just so people can follow the story?

BYRNE: Well I'm not a source. It's been emphasized to me. I'm not a source. I'm not a CI - a Confidential Informant. I'm not a spy. I have a non-standard relationship with the government, as they have put it. I'm a - it has been a - it was non-standard. Anyway--

CUOMO: But they wanted you to talk to her. They wanted you to engage.

BYRNE: They wanted me to engage. And so, I did. I - it - it took a couple months to get clear on that. Once it was clear, they gave me green light, and that was the word, I went and engaged. It immediately turned romantic, as these things do - well not romantic.

It was always clear between us, this was - she was bouncing - she's on her way or was on her way to be President of Russia. She's a super- talented girl going to that and we always understood--

CUOMO: You think Maria Butina is going to be the President of Russia?

BYRNE: Well she's been - she was being groomed for it. Maria Butina, as she explained to me once, she said, "Patrick, there are 50 oligarchs who run Russia. But there are seven who really run Russia. Four of them, I am on close terms with four of them. I am being groomed to be President."

That's my - the gun rights group that was started - it was started by Mikhail Kalashnikov, and he was an 86-year old man, and he picked this 23-year old girl.

CUOMO: The man the weapon is named after.

Patrick, let's do this. I want the audience to hear how this winds up, and how you got to wanting to - needing to resign today.

BYRNE: We're not even in--

CUOMO: I understand.

BYRNE: We're not even into the story.

CUOMO: But I - I got to take--

BYRNE: We're not that--

CUOMO: I got to take a break.

BYRNE: OK. Yes.

CUOMO: Patrick, no, I'm not telling you to leave. I'm just saying, let me take a break, and then--

BYRNE: OK.

CUOMO: --I want to keep going, all right?

BYRNE: Fair enough.

CUOMO: Stay with us.

BYRNE: Yes.

CUOMO: I told you it was a story, the likes of which you never heard before. We'll be right back.

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TEXT: CUOMO PRIME TIME.

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TEXT: LET'S GET AFTER IT.

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CUOMO: All right, now we are talking with Patrick Byrne, who just resigned as Overstock CEO today, in part because he revealed that he was involved with certain government matters, including an association or a romance with accused Russian agent, Maria Butina, and he didn't want to get the company involved with that, and he's joining us now to tell the story.

Now, as you might imagine, Patrick, and I'm sure you're hearing yourself, a lot of people who know you from Overstock are--

BYRNE: Mm-hmm.

CUOMO: --are saying, "Is he all right like what's going on with this story?" What reassurance do you give people that you're saying--

BYRNE: I'm not--

CUOMO: --what you know.

BYRNE: I'm not in the reassurance business. If you'd like, I will tell you the true backstory on the Russia and Clinton investigations, happy to do that. I'm not in the convincing business. Would you like to hear what happened?

CUOMO: I want to hear what's happened.

BYRNE: Here's what happened.

CUOMO: Just to let the audience know where we left off before the break, Maria Butina came up, she wanted you to come to Russia and speak.

BYRNE: Yes--

CUOMO: You went to the federal government to tell them that a Russian suspicious person was telling you this. They said "Keep it going." All true?

BYRNE: All true.

CUOMO: OK. BYRNE: And here is the main event. As that - so from September through - of 2015 through March of 2016, I saw her. I'm a - I'm a 56-year old bachelor. I said, "Let's - every six weeks, we'll meet somewhere. You pick the place."

I - I thought it was two-thirds opportunity. This girl wanted to be a back-channel for peace. She knew good - good liberals in Russia. And she wanted me to - thought - two-thirds opportunity. One-third - it was one-third risk because she was talking about schmoozing with politicians.

And she told me that this guy Torshin had assigned her. Whether Hillary, Cruz, Rubio, or Trump won, she was to have a contact in that administration. Don't bother with Bernie. Torshin had decided she couldn't win - he couldn't win.

So, that kind of talk bothered me, and I was reporting it, and they kept on dismissing it, and I thought that was odd. And it reached the point where eventually she's schmoozing around - well she even - she very quickly checked off.

[21:30:00] She did meet someone in Hillary's circle. I don't know who it was, and she checked that off. She didn't want to deal with them anymore. She's more - she's a little like a freedman type.

She's more - she's like more sympathetic with Republicans anyway. Once it was clear, she was only going to be swanking around with Republicans, they went completely hands-off even to the point that I said "Wait a second."

At one point, I learned, in several weeks, she's going to some convention in the South, I thought it was Tennessee, and the Conservative Convention. Donald - Don Jr.'s going to come, be taken on a Sunday afternoon at 2 o'clock out the back of his hotel, taken up this road, and driven up the road to her hotel, spend 60 minutes with her, blah, blah, blah, what are you going to do for--

CUOMO: But you don't think that ever happened?

BYRNE: It never happened.

CUOMO: All right, good.

BYRNE: No, well, it - I think it - but wait a second. The main event was the - I was like "What are we going to do? You want me to take her away for the weekend?" And they say, "Let it all happen." So, you got to be kidding. They said, "We're going to let it all happen."

They let - it became very clear to me by about January 2016 or at least the hypothesis was forming that this - their behavior was so strange, it's almost like because--

CUOMO: And by "They," you're saying people in the FBI. You don't have to tell me who they are.

BYRNE: Men in Black. CUOMO: But you say that--

BYRNE: Men in Black.

CUOMO: --you know who they are.

BYRNE: Yes, Men in Black.

And - and they - it was so strange that I was thinking it's almost like they're letting this Can o'Scandal (ph). I develop, and someday they're going to shake it up, and crack it, and spread it all over the Republican Party.

And then I thought, "Well there's no way the FBI would do. There's no way President Obama would do that." I like President Obama. I think - I think he's a fine man, and may - he's a class act. And anyway, I thought there was no way.

Well anyway that continued. She in February or March of 2016 ask - but I had that hypothesis by December 2015, "Are they letting this happen so someday they're going to pull the pin, and there's some explosion in the - of Russian scandal?" I thought "That couldn't possibly be." She--

CUOMO: And just to be clear, Patrick, so people understand what's going on here. The FBI wanted you to continue your association to get information. They never told you, you needed to have a romantic relationship with somebody.

BYRNE: Well eventually, yes, they did. I know they--

CUOMO: They told you that you had to have--

BYRNE: That's where I'm getting.

CUOMO: --a romantic relationship?

BYRNE: That's where I'm getting to, which is - and it wasn't them. It's X, Y, and Z, and I'm going to tell you who - who they are.

In March, she invited me over to Russia again, give a speech in St. Petersburg on Blockchain, and how it's going to change poverty and everything, and then Putin was going to come, and I had - would have 60 minutes with Putin.

They told me to break up with her, and they had something else for me to do, and that something else involved corruption with a federal official. I helped them on that matter, and that also ended very - so, I thought it was strange they told me not to go - go to Russia.

And then they helped me - it had me to help them with something involving a federal official corruption.

CUOMO: You know you're going to have to put names to who these people were--

BYRNE: And we're now--

CUOMO: --in the federal government. You know that right?

BYRNE: Well Hillary Clinton. Hillary Clinton.

CUOMO: No, no, no, no, I'm saying--

BYRNE: No. They--

CUOMO: --in terms of who you were dealing with on the FBI side, at some point, Patrick, you're going to have to give names to reinforce the credibility--

BYRNE: Oh, of course.

CUOMO: --of the story.

BYRNE: Of course.

CUOMO: Because it's pretty wild.

BYRNE: Listen it's - yes, we're not - you aren't - you haven't even heard wild yet.

When the - when the corruption investigation was done, I was told by federal agents - well, I don't want to get into the - it became clear, it seemed to be more about blackmail than it was about law enforcement, and I'm not going to ex - but it was more about blackmail, and then - on Hillary Clinton.

And then, when that was done, about three months later in July, July 1st or so, they came back to me, and said, "Boy, what a mistake we made. Russia! You're right. There's this Russia, Russia, Russia, this gal Maria, oh my Gosh, highest national priority."

And they said, and the very honorable men and women, the Men in Black, they said "We want to be clear. This never happens in the United States. We are the good guys. Oh, we're not - we don't work like the bad guys. But we need to ask you to rekindle a romantic relationship with Maria Butina, and - and discover"--

CUOMO: Members of the FBI that you're sure were members of the FBI asked you to do this? And you know--

BYRNE: And--

CUOMO: --their names?

BYRNE: And I know their names. And they said these orders are coming from the personal - this is being personally supervised by Y, and it's being - and at the request of X, and then two months later, they said, Mr. Z has added his name to these - the signature.

CUOMO: All right, now, you're being - you're giving them anonymity now. But I heard you say on Fox, "If you go put a camera in Jim Comey's face, and say the name Patrick Byrne, you're not going to like the reaction it gets."

BYRNE: That's - that's the Z. That's Mr. Z.

CUOMO: So, you believe that Jim Comey knew that you were being asked to do these things in the name of the United States government?

BYRNE: Not only knew, I was specifically told this request is coming from Jim Comey at the request of somebody, who I'm not going to name. Do not assume it's the President. Do not assume it's the Pre - it was the - President Obama, do not assume that.

[21:35:00] That came out - absolutely. It was out of federal agents' lips, and all - this is all the stuff - this is all been--

CUOMO: And you have their names?

BYRNE: Oh, yes, this was all done - this is - this is the kindergarten stuff. I'm not--

CUOMO: Because I got to believe. And when--

BYRNE: This all happened.

CUOMO: --they respond they're going to say "We like Patrick Byrne. You know, he was good in business. But this story is a - a 100 percent fugazi."

BYRNE: No. They were - they're not even going to do that. I promise you they're going to "No comment." They will not come out and deny this. They know - there's too much. If they come out and deny this, there's two--

CUOMO: You have anything in writing?

BYRNE: Listen, this is the silly part.

CUOMO: Well it's not that silly, Patrick.

BYRNE: --I'm light years behind. It's light--

CUOMO: I mean this story is so wild.

BYRNE: --I'm light - Chris--

CUOMO: That you got to have some proof.

BYRNE: Chris, I'm light years behind - beyond all the - the - the world you're talking about.

This is all - was all fed into the DOJ on April 5th and April 30th. Nine days later, on May 9th, they moved Maria Butina from an isolation cell in a SHU unit in Virginia to the nicest women's camp in the federal system.

And on May 14th--

CUOMO: How do you know?

BYRNE: And on May 14th, John Durham was appointed. May 13th. So, two weeks after I went in. Two to five week--

CUOMO: How do you know they moved her?

BYRNE: Her - well her lawyer, her lawyer.

CUOMO: SHU is a Special Housing Unit. It's a different type of housing that they have available for certain inmates.

BYRNE: Yes. You know, in some countries, a solitary confinement more than three months is considered torture. They had - they sentenced her to 18 months, and she's in solitary confinement for 10 months, until I went in and spoke up.

CUOMO: Are you sympathetic to Butina? You said it was a romantic relationship. I haven't gone into the emotional component. Do you have feelings for her?

BYRNE: Well I'm very fond of her. She's - I used to be--

CUOMO: You think she's a spy?

BYRNE: Maria needs to go home to Russia, and be the next Pre - or of be - best thing that can happen to Russia and the United States is if Maria Butina gets out, and goes home, and is a national hero.

CUOMO: Why would that be good for us if someone we believe is a - the government believes is a Russian spy, goes home and is a hero?

BYRNE: Chris, you know, Lao's disciple Zhuang Zhou said that "Names are the guests of reality." You put a word like spot, you know, a - this girl knows - these are deep questions, and we're not going to get into in sound bites. I'd be happy to come back and--

CUOMO: No, look, Patrick, look, I'm giving you a - a ton of time here because I want the context. But I mean spy--

BYRNE: OK. Maria Butina--

CUOMO: --you know, spy can be a pejorative. But it would apply here if she was working for the Russian government, and trying to be disrupting--

BYRNE: Well the government doesn't--

CUOMO: --to the United States government.

BYRNE: And the government does not allege she's - our government does not allege she was a spy. It alleges she was an agent of influence.

And that as the prosecutor state - said, when he stood up in court, and argued why she had to be sentenced to five years, or whatever, is that these meetings may have seemed innocuous. Yes, she met somebody, she put it on Facebook, may seem innocuous, but actually, an agent of influence can do grave damage to national security.

Let me tell you, they knew about Maria Butina the day she landed in - in the United States, and they knew about every meeting she had with people like Don Jr., before she had them, from me.

The government knew about every one of those meetings before they happened. And then they put her in a - in a - in a box, the size of your shower stall, for 10 months, saying these meetings did grave national damage. They're lying through the teeth.

CUOMO: Right. But just to be clear, in the interest of fairness, because you said Don Jr.'s name, there is no allegation that's ever been put on him that he was working with her in any way that was untoward.

If anything, she took pictures with people, but they didn't even know who they were taking pictures with.

BYRNE: Exactly. She ended up did having a private dinner with - I - I learned recently, with Torshin and Don Jr. in, incidentally, a Kentucky NRA Convention, which sounds a lot like my memory of her telling me about going to Tennessee for some sort of Conservative Convention to meet Don Jr. The government knew all about that, months before it happened.

CUOMO: Right. But I'm just--

BYRNE: You know, it was all being set--

CUOMO: --I'm just being fair to Don Jr. because there is no--

BYRNE: No, Don Jr.'s - oh--

CUOMO: --suggestion, as far as you know, that he did anything wrong. Her trying to get close to the President's son is one thing. Him even knowing about it would be something else.

BYRNE: No.

CUOMO: And you don't know of any proof of that, and we're not suggesting otherwise. Let me ask you--

BYRNE: And I'm not - and - and I don't think he did. I don't think he did.

CUOMO: Good.

BYRNE: I think that she was going around doing this--

CUOMO: Yes.

BYRNE: --doing this stuff and--

CUOMO: She was looking for opportunity.

BYRNE: Well and they let it all happen, 100 percent, I-- CUOMO: "They" being the U.S. government. So, when you went to the DOJ--

BYRNE: The U.S. government - yes.

CUOMO: --they gave us a statement, Patrick, saying some of what he says has credibility to it because you knew certain things about operations that weren't public. What have they done since you went in and debriefed them about all this? And what does the FBI--

BYRNE: Well--

CUOMO: --people said to you, these people that you say came to you?

BYRNE: Well this is a massive - this is massively problematic for them that I've done that. I've done this--

CUOMO: Why did you do it?

BYRNE: Because I - because I'm looking at my country going nuts for the last three years.

[21:40:00] And if you don't mind me saying, CNN, and Fox, MSNBC, you're all chasing each other's tails. You don't know what's going - I mean no - no fault of your own. You're a legitimate journalist, and I admire you. And Anderson is a good friend of a former friend, Ford (ph). So, I have lots of respect for you folks.

What - I'm watching my country rip itself apart for three years. I'm watching people drive 600 miles to shoot 20 strangers in a mall. And every time this happens, I'm - I can't live with myself. It's harder and harder.

And especially last - since last July, I figured out how the - enough of the missing pieces came out, I put together with mine, and I figured out that this was all political espionage, it's been very tough.

Finally, in June, I went out to see Buffett. My - do you know about my - Buffett's like my Rabbi. I've known him since I was 13, and he was 45 or something.

CUOMO: I remember you telling me about him when you were starting Overstock.com.

BYRNE: And he's always been a great adviser, and friend, and he's a wonderful teacher and man, and I - I finally went to see him in June 20th, and I said, I can't - and I walked through the story, and he said, Patrick, he thought for about 10 seconds, and he said, "You are coming forward to the public, Patrick."

And I said "I've only gone to the Feds. They're already digging through this. They will be furious." He says, "Patrick, you let Feds do their job. You - you're citizen, your job, this country's ripping itself apart, you have to come forward." I gave him 20 minutes of counter-arguments. I said my own lawyer's head's going to explode. He says, "Don't worry about your lawyer. What else you got. Ignore your lawyer. What else you got?"

I walked through every objection. He says you have - your country, it's never been like this in my life. Your people are killing each other. The country's ripping itself apart. You are coming forward right now, Patrick, so I have.

FBI's silent. I will never - listen, the FBI are honorable guys. I'm sorry that their names' even up in this. It was hijacked from the top. The bottom - it was all hijacked from the top. They're not to blame.

CUOMO: What does that mean "Hijacked from the top?"

BYRNE: The organization--

CUOMO: What does that mean?

BYRNE: The organization was hijacked from the top by X, Y, and Z. And at this point--

CUOMO: You know you're going to have to provide names of people that you met with because, you know, either you're telling a wild story--

BYRNE: I think Bill Barr's going to prove those names.

CUOMO: --or you're telling a story that's wild and true. One of those--

BYRNE: I am highly--

CUOMO: --two things are true.

BYRNE: I am highly confident that Bill Barr and the Department of Justice will be providing those names on an indictment someday - someday in the not too distant future.

CUOMO: But gave them--

BYRNE: I'm--

CUOMO: You gave the DOJ the names of the FBI people--

BYRNE: Oh, yes.

CUOMO: --you met with?

BYRNE: And I'm not the only whistleblower coming forward. Hillary Clinton was - Hillary Clinton's supporters in Hollywood were spied on. I'm not the only person coming forward. There are other--

CUOMO: It sounds crazy. I got to tell you. I don't mean to, you know, use a word--

BYRNE: What is-- CUOMO: --that's insensitive to the mentally-ill. But it's - because it's so unusual, I've never heard anything like this, Patrick.

BYRNE: Yes.

CUOMO: And I've been doing this--

BYRNE: It was--

CUOMO: --a long time.

BYRNE: It was weaponized. I was in the middle of it. Our law enforcement was weaponized. I'm sorry. I like President Obama very much. I did not vote for Donald Trump.

Our - our - our national security state was weaponized. I was in the center of it. Those three names are known to the government. And this is - it happened, so it happened. And I had to get - I was told - I'll tell you this.

I was told last October, if I come forward, and this was by a friendly that I'm going to be that the forces of Washington are going to grind me into a dust, and that were - those are the words said, and they're right, entirety of Washington is going to come down on my head, which is why I had to leave Overstock.

CUOMO: Are you willing to testify under oath--

BYRNE: I didn't know what to do (ph).

CUOMO: --to all this?

BYRNE: I'll - I'll - of course, of course. Of course.

CUOMO: Because this is heavy--

BYRNE: Yes.

CUOMO: --this is your heavy allegations, you know, that the FBI wanted you to have an - any kind of relationship, let alone a romantic one, with someone they believed was a Russian political operative.

BYRNE: Well yes, and it - normally, that's an illegal order or instruction.

CUOMO: Yes.

BYRNE: And I want to be clear that the Men in Black were very unhappy - they were not alluring, and they were like "This is really awful. We never have heard of this in our career. The United States never does stuff. We are not like this. We're not the bad guys. But this request is coming from X, and Y and Z."

CUOMO: And you think Jim Comey knew?

BYRNE: A 100 percent. A 100 percent. CUOMO: So, Patrick Byrne, let's do this. We're going to do our damnedest to track all this stuff down. You're going to have to provide the names.

You say you provided them to the DOJ. They didn't say that you gave them the identities of anybody in their statement. They said you had certain operational knowledge that wouldn't have been public.

So, we will continue to do our work. The channels are open with you. I want the truth to come out. And I appreciate you telling your side of the story here tonight.

BYRNE: Thank you, Chris. It's - it's been an honor. I'm going to keep lay low. Best of luck to everybody. And I'm certain - there's good news here for both Republicans and Democrats.

The - the - the Republicans are wrong. The Democrats didn't just dream up this Russian investigation. The FBI did. They had me jumping up and down and saying there was a problem here and looking at it.

I thought I was going to be talking someday, explaining why didn't they look into it? They're - they're - they're wrong. The Republicans are wrong to say that this was fabricated and nowhere.

[21:45:00] What - what they - what they're right about though is that one - that it was actually being politicized. So anyway, I'm very sorry. I'm going to lay low. Best of luck to you, Chris, thank you, very honorable for you - for you to have me on. Thank you.

CUOMO: Well I'm not telling you to do a media tour. But I'm saying you know you're going to have to cooperate with authorities. You know people are going to want to vet this information.

And you know that you can trust that we'll do the job here responsibly. And I'll check back with you. We have each other's numbers. I'll let you know what I find out.

BYRNE: Take care, Sir.

CUOMO: Patrick, thank you very much.

Patrick Byrne just resigned as head of Overstock, and now, you know why. All right, I told you, I've never heard a story like it. Is it true? Is it not? He swears it is. He says he'll do it under oath.

Let's bring in somebody who was a former FBI Special Agent with reaction. You know Asha Rangappa. She helps me out on this show all the time. She heard it all. It's a lot to digest. Let's take a break, come back, and figure out where it takes us.

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CUOMO: All right, let's bring in former FBI Special Agent Asha Rangappa. She heard the whole interview with Patrick Byrne.

And Asha, just to - for me to remind some people what's been going on in the show tonight, Patrick Byrne isn't some InfoWars, you know, extreme Right-wing fringe lunatic, OK? We wouldn't have him on the show. I wouldn't entertain anything bizarre like that.

I know Patrick Byrne. I worked reporting on him when he started Overstock.com. I followed him over the years. His business has had some troubles. We looked at his blog. There's some stuff on there that's a little suspect. But it has also received accolades in the past.

[21:50:00] And his story is very simple on one level. If he had contacts with the FBI that involved Butina, the - the alleged Russian spy, indicted Russian spy, a prosecuted Russian spy, then those names exist.

And if he wants to do his X, Y, Z thing right now, he can, but he says Jim Comey knew about it. He says he offered those names to the DOJ. They haven't said it.

Asha Rangappa made a good point to me in the break. She said, you know, he wasn't in the indictment, and not even under the mask of some source or anything like that, he says he had a non-standard agreement with them.

I get why you would be suspect about the story. So am I! But Patrick Byrne is not just some InfoWars guy, OK? He - he was a very legit business person of high success. Overstock still has a market cap after two terrible years of $745 million, OK? This is an influential person in our country. He just resigned over this, he says.

So, with all that, Asha, either it's true, or it isn't. That's always true. It's a binary reality. But he either has the names, and they check out as people who were or are working with the FBI, who confirm it or not, fair point?

ASHA RANGAPPA, FORMER FBI SPECIAL AGENT, CNN LEGAL & NATIONAL SECURITY ANALYST: Yes. So, what I can tell you, Chris, is what I know about how FBI assets work in the Counterintelligence Division. And this would have been a counterintelligence asset.

What he said that jumped out at me is that Maria Butina approached him and said that she had contacts in high levels of the government that she might even be the next President of Russia, and that he had a close relationship with her. So, what the FBI does when they suspect a foreign agent operating in the United States is if they know people who have access to her. And in this case, he went affirm--

CUOMO: He says--

RANGAPPA: --he went on his own.

CUOMO: --he went to them.

RANGAPPA: Correct. He went on his own to the FBI. So, they would of course say "Well get us what information you can."

CUOMO: Right.

RANGAPPA: And so that, to me, seems completely normal.

Now, typically what would happen is that you would have two agents who would be communicating with an asset, and they would be documenting every interaction, every debriefing in a highly confidential case file, which would likely be only accessible by someone higher-up.

And so, all of this would be documented. If you were, you know, if - if there were some oversight--

CUOMO: If there is proof, it should exist.

RANGAPPA: It should exist. There's - there's no non-standard agreement. That part did - to me, did not add up. There - you know, everything that you do in the FBI is kind of under the assumption that it can be uncovered and will be--

CUOMO: The idea of having someone--

RANGAPPA: --looked at.

CUOMO: --have a romantic affair you're saying "No way?"

RANGAPPA: There - look, if he had an - a romantic affair with her, on his own, and was providing information to them, I - I don't know that that would necessarily be out of the bounds. I don't--

CUOMO: He says they asked him to do it.

RANGAPPA: That, to me, seems incredibly suspect, only because there is a lot of legal liability that's involved with that. You can imagine the - the "He-said-She-said" situations that could happen.

CUOMO: I actually can't imagine. I can't imagine--

RANGAPPA: I mean--

CUOMO: --anything like this. I've never heard of anything like this ever.

RANGAPPA: I mean it would be absurd for the F-- CUOMO: And if it weren't Patrick Byrne, I wouldn't entertain it.

RANGAPPA: Yes.

CUOMO: But I know him.

RANGAPPA: It would be absurd for the FBI--

CUOMO: And we both know him.

RANGAPPA: --to - to direct that.

CUOMO: We both know who he is. He was the CEO of a very legit - and even if you look at his website, you know, there's some stuff on there, well you'll say, "All right, this is a - this is a little far- fetched." But there's a lot of it on there that isn't.

And he is a respected intelligent guy. His company's had a couple of down years. But I didn't hear anything coming out of the company that they believe Patrick Byrne has changed, you know, that he's under some type of stress, or that he's not well, and he's always sounded the way he does now.

RANGAPPA: Well, Chris, here's the PSA--

CUOMO: But - so what's the next step on this?

RANGAPPA: Look like here's the Public Service Announcement I would have to your viewers.

If you are a middle-age or older man who gets approached by a 23 - 23- year old who says she has high-level contacts in the Russian government, and maybe the next President of Russia, like this is not going to go well for you.

CUOMO: Well - well, look, but Butina--

RANGAPPA: And so--

CUOMO: --Butina is a real situation. I mean, obviously, she's sitting in federal authority right now.

RANGAPPA: She is a real situation. And so, he can--

CUOMO: And she was working lots of different people. So, Butina is real.

RANGAPPA: And - and she can expect--

CUOMO: It's whether or not Patrick's story about his interaction is real.

RANGAPPA: She can expect that because she was both stating that she was basically an agent of the for - of a foreign power, and a foreign national, you know, I would expect that the FBI would have been monitoring her - her communication. CUOMO: Well they didn't go after him, you know. I mean we--

RANGAPPA: Of course not. I don't think he did anything--

CUOMO: --we also know that.

RANGAPPA: --illegal. I don't think he did anything illegal. He would have been a source of information.

CUOMO: All right.

RANGAPPA: So--

CUOMO: All right, so listen let's leave it there because I don't want to get too deep in it. But again, it's a man who has a very legit role in our society. He was CEO of a big-time company. He is not some InfoWars-fringy guy. Otherwise, we wouldn't entertain it.

[21:55:00] And look, this is a simple one. Either the FBI comes out and says, "Look, God bless Patrick Byrne. But none of this ever happened and, you know," or there is going to be something else.

So, Asha, thank you for helping us unpack the possibilities. I told you it's a story, the likes of which I've never heard, and especially from someone like Patrick Byrne. We're going to be talking about it with D. Lemon, next.

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CUOMO: Let's bring in D. Lemon. I know you were listening to that. I saw Patrick Byrne on Fox today. I had read--

DON LEMON, CNN HOST, CNN TONIGHT WITH DON LEMON: I saw it too.

CUOMO: --last week or earlier in the week about what he had disclosed.

LEMON: Yes.

CUOMO: The DOJ said he did seem to know some operational things. But he didn't say that he gave them the identities. He says he gave them the names of the FBI people he was involved with.

LEMON: Yes. CUOMO: Look either he's got proof that she had - he had a relationship with her, and he's got proof because he wasn't ever obviously prosecuted by the government for his involvement.

He also wasn't mentioned in her indictment. But either he has the names or you got to feel bad for Patrick Byrne because as great as he rose to in this society, something's off with him now.

LEMON: Well her - and what are her people saying that he - it said that he - her - her attorney said.

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