For once, US media claims of a “bombshell” in the investigation into alleged collusion between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia during last year’s presidential election lived up to their billing.
Key to detonating that bombshell are a series of emails released this week between the president’s son, Donald Trump Jr, and a British Jewish music publicist, Rob Goldstone.
Mr Goldstone is an unlikely figure to find himself at the centre of the burgeoning scandal which may bring down the US president. Manchester-born, he has proved himself a somewhat inept practitioner of the dark arts of political skulduggery.
Despite his jet-setting lifestyle, Mr Goldstone is hardly an international man of mystery. More Austin Powers than James Bond, he has left a trail of emails and social media posts which investigative journalists trying to unearth the true story of Mr Trump’s victory last November have followed gratefully.
The emails concern Donald Trump Jr’s meeting with a Russian lawyer in June 2016 and show the president’s son was aware that the Kremlin was supporting his father’s campaign and was eager to provide damaging material about Hillary Clinton.
A former tabloid journalist who runs a public relations company and claims in the past to have worked with Michael Jackson, BB King and James Taylor, Mr Goldstone now represents an aspiring Russian pop star, Emin Agalarov.
Mr Agalarov’s father, Aras, is a Moscow-based property developer with close ties to both Vladimir Putin and Mr Trump. He was the US president’s business partner in taking the Miss World beauty pageant to Moscow in 2013, and the pair reportedly stuck a preliminary deal to construct a Trump Tower in the Russian capital. The project was put on hold when Mr Trump launched his presidential campaign in 2015.
Mr Goldstone confirmed this week that he had helped facilitate the meeting last June between Mr Trump Jnr and Natalia Veselnitskaya, a lawyer with alleged connections to the Kremlin, on behalf of his Russian client. The meeting was also attended by the president’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
The email exchanges between Mr Goldstone and Mr Trump Jnr show the PR man excitedly telling the president’s son that he has learned from the Agalarovs that the Russians were willing to provide “official documents and information that would incriminate Mrs Clinton” and was part of “Russia and its government’s support for Mr Trump”.
In response, Mr Trump Jnr wrote: “If it's what you say I love it especially later in the summer”, a reference to the time when the general election campaign would officially kick off. The meeting with Ms Veselnitskaya was fixed as a result of the explosive email exchange. Mr Goldstone also referred to Ms Veselnitskaya as “the Russian government attorney” – a claim denied by both the Kremlin and the lawyer herself.
It is hard to escape the irony of Mr Goldstone committing to email information which was, as he himself acknowledged, “high-level and sensitive”, during a campaign which was dominated by Mrs Clinton’s email server and the hacking and release of emails of her top aides.
As reporters have gleefully noted, he then helpfully checked in on Facebook at Trump Tower when he accompanied Ms Veselnitskaya for her meeting with the campaign’s high command, posting the words “Preparing for meeting”. He later posted a picture of Trump Tower with the caption: “I showed my Godson the HQ of our future leader”. His updates also show that he was in Moscow 10 days before the 9 June 2016 meeting in New York, returning to spend most of July in Russia and Azerbaijan.
Mr Goldstone’s social media not only underlines his strong support for the president but also reveal some of his connections to him. A Facebook post in June 2015, when Mr Trump announced his bid for the White House, declared that he and Mr Agalarov were briefed on his intentions during a meeting at Trump Tower the previous month. A picture from March 2016 shows Mr Goldstone “deep in discussion over dinner in Vegas” with Mr Trump and Mr Agalarov.
Amid a plethora of pictures of him wearing various hats – including, of course, a ‘Make America Great Again’ red baseball cap – Mr Goldstone also posts images of himself acting out a scene from “Andy Pandy” on a cruise ship, trying on wigs in Bangkok and playing with a puppet.
Meet Rob Goldstone, the lawyer who set up the meeting between Trump Jr. and the Russian.— The Reagan Battalion (@ReaganBattalion) July 11, 2017
Perhaps Mr Goldstone’s most unintentionally revealing picture is that which he posted on Instagram of himself hours after Mr Trump defeated Mrs Clinton last November. In it, he wears a T-shirt emblazoned with the words “Russia”. He captioned it “Hedging bets”. This week, Mr Goldstone helped to disclose just how keen Mr Putin was to stack the deck in Mr Trump’s favour.