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

Muscat Daily - - BUSINESS - By Demetri Sev­astop­ulo and Max Sed­don

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.”

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