Trump presidency - keeping controversy in the family
The emails offering Don Jr, the US President’s eldest son, Russian information on Hillary has placed him in legal jeopardy
In the long history of White House this is the first to begin with a pop so sncgacnadlalelsd,
Emin Agalarov, a Russian-Azeri pop singer, came to the US in 2012 in search of greater fame. While in Los Angeles, he recorded a music video with the then Miss Universe Olivia Culpo. On the back of this friendship, Emin’s billionaire father Aras Agalarov de- cided to stump up some of the money for the next Miss Universe pageant in Moscow.
That brought the Agalarovs into contact with Donald Trump, a fellow billionaire real estate developer who owned Miss Universe. They finalised the deal to host the pageant at a June 2013 dinner, also attended by Emin’s publicist Rob Goldstone, in Trump’s Las Vegas hotel.
“These are the most powerful people in all of Russia, the richest men in Russia,” Trump said as he shook hands with the Agalarovs on a red carpet.
Trump’s previous life, with its heady mix of real estate, entertainment and celebrity, col- lided dramatically this week with his new role as President when Emin Agalarov and Gold- stone emerged as the conduits in an apparent attempt to pass damaging material about Hillary Clinton to Donald Trump Jr, the Presi- dent’s eldest son.
After a year during which the Trump fam- ily has fended off allegations that it colluded with Russia during the 2016 election, emails published last week showed Goldstone, who once worked for British tabloid newspapers, offering Russian information about Hillary to Don Jr, as he is known.
At the very least, the explosive revelations have turned the younger Trump into a figure of ridicule - a campaign neophyte whose un- scrupulous approach to engaging with an al- leged Kremlin representative could have left him open to blackmail.
At worst, his exchanges with Emin Agalarov and Goldstone - and the Russian lawyer they introduced him to - could expose him and other members of the campaign to legal jeopardy over laws that bar campaigns from receiving anything of value from foreign individuals or governments. Don Jr has al- ready provided several inconsistent explana- tions about the events.
“The only time you want a comparison to a character in Monty Python is if you’re going for some comedic actor of the year award,” said Mike Rogers, former Republican con- gressman and head of the House intelligence committee - after Don Jr was compared to the ‘idiot in society’ sketch. Or as the normally Trump-friendly tabloid put it: ‘Donald Trump Jr is an idiot’ for accepting the offer from a ‘bozo British publicist’.
The emails from Goldstone to Don Jr ap- pear to provide the first direct evidence of po- such a loner, saying hi, shaking hands, he looked bored, almost,” said Bob Van Ronkel, a US showbiz fixer who worked on the pag- eant.
The Agalarovs and Trump announced plans to build a Trump Tower in Moscow. Emin told this week that had Trump not run for President they ‘would probably be in the construction phase today’.
The emails and conversations with Don Jr are now likely to become part of the investi- gation by Robert Mueller, the justice depart- ment special counsel, into whether the Trump campaign colluded with Moscow to influence the election.
“His going forward [with the meeting] based on the email has him soliciting a foreign national contribution because that is offering him information that is either from Russia or coming from a foreign national,” said Larry Noble of the Campaign Legal Center.
Rogers, the former lawmaker who was on the Trump transition team, said the best ex- planation for what Don Jr had done was in- competence and a lack of political experience. He said this was the kind of behaviour that helped foreign spies. “If you are an intelligence agency seeing this anywhere in the world, you are saying this is really good for us. I don’t think he was witting. He was running way ahead of his headlights,” he said. “The biggest winner this week is Vladimir Putin - again.”
Goldstone has downplayed his connection with Don Jr and the meeting he arranged with Natalia - suggesting that the language in the email was mere bluster. A music publicist who toured with Michael Jackson, he told the
that his relationship with Don Jr was ‘limited’.
Goldstone said: “I regret that what was PR hype and lingo has turned into this misunder- stood media madness.”
Although the email to Don Jr describes Na- talia as a ‘Russian government attorney’, it is not clear whether a lawyer based in the Moscow suburbs would have access to top- level Kremlin information of the sort Gold- stone was promising. Van Ronkel, who has introduced several Hollywood celebrities to Putin, said the Kremlin would have chosen a better-known celebrity as an intermediary.
The saga has sparked recriminations in the White House with officials pointing the finger at each other over the leak. Much of the spec- ulation has focused on Kushner and Manafort, both of whom were copied on the Goldstone emails.
Whatever the implications, the furore will continue to hobble an administration that is still struggling. “Everyone is watching the scandal unfold in real time,” said Julian Zelizer, a political historian at Princeton Uni- versity. “The story itself is dramatic, this time with the principal releasing the information himself. Even in Watergate, we had to wait for the congressional hearings.”