Before he organized a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Kremlin-connected attorney, Rob Goldstone was known as a New York City playboy who hosted vodka-soaked parties with younger acquaintances at the Russian Tea Room, a Manhattan restaurant blocks away from Trump Tower.
In June 2016, Goldstone orchestrated a meeting between Donald Jr., President Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and Trump’s then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, The New York Times reported Monday. Goldstone emailed Trump Jr., promising “information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia.” The info was “part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump—helped along by Aras and Emin,” Goldstone wrote. Aras and Emin Agalarov are a Russian billionaire and his aspiring popstar son, whose career Goldstone managed.
The Agalarovs have long boasted of their close relationship with Trump—they hosted his Miss Universe pageant in Moscow in 2013. Emin’s music career—which saw pre-President Trump appear in one of his music videos—also helped bankroll Goldstone’s life in New York’s club scene.
Goldstone, 57, is a British music publicist and former journalist based in the New York area who has represented musicians, including John Denver and Michael Jackson.
Around 2013, he associated with a crowd of New York men, “largely in their twenties, a lot of expats, all CW-series-regular attractive, and everyone pretty vaguely moneyed,” one former member of the scene, who requested anonymity to avoid reprisals, told The Daily Beast. “The kind of crowd where an apartment party in a loft on Madison Square Park turned into a limo ride turned into illicit substances in the bathrooms at Boom Boom Room, all of it getting paid for… somehow. One of the fixtures in this scene was Rob, who was always the only old guy in the group.”
Goldstone ended up paying for at least one pricey party at the Russian Tea Room.
“He was very generous—once spontaneously footed the bill for a vodka-heavy birthday dinner for eight at (kid you not) the Russian Tea Room, where he knew the management,” the former acquaintance said.
Goldstone was fond of the restaurant, which he liked and photographed for posts on Facebook. He also hosted at least one fundraiser there, and worked with one former employee to open a gastropub in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania last year.
Michael Musto, the New York journalist and former columnist for The Village Voice (who has also written for The Daily Beast), said Goldstone used to invite him to events at the New York Friars Club, a private venue in Midtown known for hosting celebrity roasts.
“I always enjoyed it because I love Borscht Belt humor and am not ashamed to admit it,” Musto told The Daily Beast. “I also found Rob pretty affable—he’s a friendly, outgoing figure who reminds me a bit of Alfred P. Doolittle in My Fair Lady—and he would always give me entree to his stuff.”
In one instance, Musto said, Goldstone was magnanimous enough to get him and a friend dinner at the Russian Tea Room.
“After he invited me to one Friars event in 2013—a roast for Padma Lakshmi, cookbook writer and ex of Salman Rushdie—I showed up and he informed me that the event didn’t actually want journalists there, only photographers,” Musto said. “To make it up to me, he set me and my friend up with dinner that night at the Russian Tea Room (which he also handled). I now find that extremely amusing.”
Asked what he thought when he saw Goldstone making headlines over the last few days, Musto said: “I almost spit out my borscht.”
Trump himself was a guest of honor at the 2004 Friars Roast at which now-CNN President Jeff Zucker, comedian Artie Lange, and others were present.
Goldstone was known for his excessive habits. Before moving to Australia, where he was a publicist for John Denver in the 1980s and later became co-president of his own PR company, Crawford Goldstone Publicity, he gave an interview on his anti-famine work in Ethiopia—where he said he put on weight.
“In 1984, Rob Goldstone, show business publicist, went to Ethiopia for Band Aid (the rock concert to help famine victims) and put on just over three kilograms,” The Sydney Morning Herald reported in 1989.
“We were staying at the Hilton,” Goldstone told the paper. “Once you do your bit, I mean, what else is there to do in a country like Ethiopia but eat?”
He told the paper he sometimes skipped dinner in favor of dessert. “I went out to dinner last night and asked for the dessert menu first,” he said. “I found a dessert called Chocolate Indulgence and asked them to put it away for me.”
Gluttony was his favorite of the seven deadly sins, he told the Morning Herald. “Greed is different to gluttony,” he said. “If you’ve got more of something, it doesn’t bother me as long as I can have my bit… Some people say the more you indulge, the more you get sick of it—that’s rubbish.”
In 2010, he penned an op-ed for The New York Times on the “The Tricks and Trials of Traveling While Fat.” In a separate interview with the paper, he described leaving his New York City residence in advance of the 2004 Republican National Convention. “The sheer chaos and madness of the convention will be enough,” Goldstone said, telling the paper he would wait out the convention in London. “But with the timing, with the security concerns that we have today—and with the threat of international and domestic threats—it will be ridiculous. I think it will be unbelievable, on a scale that’s never been seen before.”
Some of Goldstone’s clients lacked Denver or Michael Jackson’s starpower. In 2011, Goldstone was listed as an executive producer on “I Am Real,” a single by Real Housewives of New York husband Simon Van Kempen, which Gawker condemned as “the worst Real Housewives single yet.” (Sample lyrics: “Gold and diamonds glitter / the taste is slightly bitter / when wives attack behind my back / they trash me on their Twitter.”)
Goldstone’s own social media is rife with a collection of colorful hats and humorous videos, including a Facebook post from April in which he wrote “It’s very me!” beside a photo of him wearing a gold hat with the word “CUNTY” written in license-plate font. In May 2017, he posted that he would appear on talk show that would also feature Hillary Clinton.
On a recent trip to Greece, he acted out a scene from Titanic in which he pretended to be both Jack and Rose.
Shortly after Trump’s victory in November, Goldstone posted a picture to his now-private Instagram account depicting him in a T-shirt with the word “RUSSIA” written on it.
Goldstone’s Russian money also apparently fueled his expenses on the New York party circuit.
“Nobody knew a ton about his background,” Goldstone’s former acquaintance said, “but a friend from the region explained once that he was a Lou Pearlman-esque manager for the untalented son of a Russian billionaire, a kid who wanted a pop-star career and had his daddy buy it for him.”
That kid was Emin Agalarov, whom Goldstone represented under his management label Oui 2 Entertainment. Like Goldstone, Emin presented himself as something of a playboy, appearing in a music video featuring the Miss Universe contestants and Donald Trump himself.
“We thought that building a Trump Tower next to an Agalarov tower—having the two big names—could be a really cool project to execute,” Emin told Forbes in March of his family’s dealings with Trump. Trump sidelined the deal when he took office, but Emin suggested that the Agalarovs still expected favors from the president. “Now that he ran and was elected, he does not forget his friends,” Emin told Forbes.
Goldstone’s Oui 2 business partner did not return The Daily Beast’s requests for comment. But while the company was promoting Emin’s music career by posting pictures of his name carved into a loaf of bread, Goldstone was also acting as an intermediary for the aspiring pop star, emails show.
“Emin just called and asked me to contact you with something very interesting,” Goldstone emailed Trump Jr. on June 3, 2016. Trump Jr. tweeted the emails Tuesday, just moments before the Times published a story on their contents. Russia’s prosecutor general “met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russia and would be very useful to your father.
“This is obviously very high level and sensitive information but is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump—helped along by Aras and Emin,” Goldstone continued.
Trump Jr. replied that “if it’s what you say I love it,” and forward the messages to Kushner and Manafort, who attended the June 9 meeting in Trump Tower.
“I won’t sit in on the meeting, but will bring them in at 3pm and introduce you ect.,” [sic] Goldstone wrote of the two people with whom Trump Jr. was scheduled to meet.
Regardless of whether he actually sat in on the meeting, the scenester checked into Trump Tower and the Trump Organization on Facebook in the hours before the discussions.
“Prepping for a meeting,” he boasted online while checking into the tower.