The fixer: We examine British PR man Rob Goldstone
Behind the meeting between Donald Trump Jnr and Russia was flamboyant British PR Rob Goldstone. But who is he... and how did he end up embroiled in the scandal of the decade, asks Phoebe Luckhurst.
On Tuesday afternoon, Donald Trump Jnr pipped The New York Times to its own scoop. The big reveal was, of course, emails indicating that Trump Jnr agreed to meet Russians offering damaging material on Hillary Clinton.
Out of the scandal, a single figure has emerged pre-eminent: the fixer, Robert Goldstone, a British PR executive, and the man who made initial overtures to Trump Jnr.
In the exchange, Goldstone's missives are perfunctory. He made contact with Donald Trump Jnr in an email cc-ing in President Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and his then-campaign manager, Paul Manafort.
He said he was doing so on behalf of a client, Emin Agalarov, the son of a Moscow-based property developer, who had tried to partner with Trump on a hotel project and who claimed to have material that could harm the Clinton campaign. This would be presented via a Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya.
Goldstone had met the Trumps while working on the Miss Universe pageant in 2013.
But further investigation reveals rather more colour. Goldstone emerges as an unpleasant, wannabe kingpin - the grotesque Fool that this drama deserves.
Goldstone's origin story is meandering. Nominally, the 57-year-old is an "international marketing director" at entertainment PR company Oui 2 based in New York. The website names him as president and co-founder and states that his clients have included Michael Jackson, BB King, Richard Branson, EMI Music Publishing and TLC.
Before the segue into PR, he had worked as a journalist, starting out as a sports reporter on the Jewish Gazette at 16 in his home town of Manchester, before moving to London to work at radio station LBC, reporting largely on celebrity stories.
He says he has worked for the Birmingham Post and Mail, The Sun and the Sunday Mirror. In 2010 he scored a byline on The New York Times website for a blogpost entitled, "The Tricks and Trials of Travelling While Fat". "At 285 pounds and 5 feet 7 inches", he wrote, "I may not be the tallest, but I am almost always one of the biggest passengers on a plane". Colleagues from the London years remember a reverence for celebrity and a slavish obsession with the superficial.
"He was big on celebrity gossip, nothing political", Jonathan Perry, a former LBC engineer and producer who worked with Goldstone, told the FT. "He is a really generous man, lots of fun to be around. But I'm concerned he is getting into some hot water with this."
It was here that he learned the art of the fix. "He was great at working the London nightclub scene," another former colleague has recalled. "Within months of his arrival we all had memberships for Stringfellows."
He mixed with gilded names. His website boasts that he was "chosen by Michael Jackson to accompany Jackson exclusively on his 1999 Australian tour". And in 1985 he accompanied Bob Geldof to Ethiopia to cover the Live Aid famine relief tour.
Though he had more than celebrities in his sights: on the trip Goldstone reportedly gained about half a stone, according to the Sydney Morning Herald, which covered the story at the time.
"We were staying at the Hilton," he told the newspaper. "Once you've done your bit, I mean, what else is there to do in a country like Ethiopia?" He added that he sometimes had dessert instead of dinner. "I went out to dinner last night and asked for the dessert menu first. I found a dessert called Chocolate Indulgence and asked them to put it away for me."
Goldstone shuttled across the world - working and living in London and Sydney before settling on New York as his base in the Nineties. There, he cemented the persona he had begun to craft in London.
He was known for throwing parties at the Russian Tea Room, an opulent, excessive dining room and party venue in Manhattan, which is two blocks from Trump Tower. The vodka was always plentiful, the company young and beautiful.
He ran with a circle of New York men, "largely in their twenties, a lot of expats, all CW-series-regular attractive, and everyone pretty vaguely moneyed", a former member of this set 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 the 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's Facebook profile says he is still based in New York. Reportedly, much of his gilded lifestyle is funded by Russian money: Agalarov is an aspiring pop star who performed the interval act at Eurovision when it was held in Baku in 2012.
Reportedly, his billionaire father has offered Goldstone near limitless roubles to try to make his son a star. He is still on Oui 2's page as co-founder and president of the company.
Last year he was a judge at the Miss Universe pageant, but at the moment he is taking time out to travel across Europe.
Facebook posts suggest he might not be travelling by yacht, but by passenger ferry and the nightlife is low-key and local rather than superclubs.
He has shared images from his trip, taken in locations including Venice, Dubrovnik and Montenegro.
In one, he wears a golden laurel wreath, captioned: "Of course I had to buy it - the artist said it made me look like an Emperor." The last image he shared was from Athens, before the emails were leaked.
Indeed, Goldstone's Facebook page is a marvel: vapid and garish, even for a medium and an age that discourages discretion.
He shows off loafers with the word "sex" on them and a shirt printed with the adjective "sexy". He has themes: selfies captured in hats and in costumes, selfies captured next to slack-jawed dolls.
It's cheap and tacky, though he is also extraordinarily indiscreet. Notably, he checked in at Trump Tower on Facebook on the afternoon of the purported meeting with Trump Jnr and Veselnitskaya, captioning the post, "Preparing for meeting".
In June 2013, he also mentioned a "fun meeting" with Trump, and later shared a photograph of Goldstone and the now president having dinner in Las Vegas, along with Emin Agalarov. In February 2014, he shared a picture of Ivanka Trump and Emin Agalarov in Moscow.
His social media also signposts his apparent links to Russia. On his Instagram page, now private, he reportedly referred to Moscow as his second home.
Social media suggests he was in Moscow 10 days before the meeting with Donald Jnr and also that he spent most of the summer afterwards in Russia and Azerbaijan.
The day after Trump won the election, he shared a picture of himself in a sweatshirt with "Russia" printed across it. The caption: "Hedging bets."
He has reportedly taken the photo down, though the screenshots have been widely shared.
He also shared a grainy picture of himself, Agalarov and Trump, captioned, "the A team - headed to the White House!"
Of course, this does not prove anything.
But it certainly won't stop questions being asked about possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.
And the cheapness of Goldstone's social media presence does little to elevate Trump.
The saga hurtles onwards.
As a PR man, Goldstone might reason that all publicity is good publicity - though it will likely now be harder for him to find anyone to party with in New York.