What to Know About Rob Goldstone, the Music Publicist Caught Up in the Trump Jr. Russia Scandal
"To hear he is part of an international conspiracy is like a joke," says a music exec who has worked with the publicist. "It reminds me of the movie 'Being There.'"
About 22 years ago while working as the vp of marketing for the U.S. operations of retail chain HMV, Rob Goldstone was tasked with lugging around a large crystal bowl that the company had won at the National Association of Recording Merchandisers awards — and that its executives had been filling with Dom Perignon all night to celebrate.
But by accident, Goldstone dropped the award, causing it to shatter into smithereens as HMV's U.S. president Peter Luckhurst shouted out in the convention hotel hallway: "I have just seen the thousand points of light and it came from our shattered NARM award."
HMV brought Goldstone to the U.S. "to make noise and that he did; the tackier the project, the louder the noise," recalled one former HMV executive.
Now Goldstone has found himself in another awkward situation after arranging a meeting between Donald Trump Jr. and a Russian government attorney in 2016 at the request of his client, Russian pop star Emin Agaralov, because the attorney had claimed to have information that could hurt Hillary Clinton's political chances.
Though Goldstone had been one of the biggest personalities at HMV and became known for persistently dogging reporters for his subsequent clients — including EMI Music Publishing and its then-chairman Martin Bandier, Shapiro Bernstein Music Publishing, Steinway & Sons, Best Buy, Hamptons pop star Sir Ivan Wilzig and Agalarov — the veteran music publicist suddenly has gone relatively quiet, a stark contrast to the larger-than-life, off-kilter and irreverent personality he projected on the job.
"The lawyer had apparently stated that she had some information regarding illegal campaign contributions to the (Democratic National Convention) which she believed Trump Jr. might find important," Goldstone told Billboard in a Facebook message Monday, noting that Trump Jr. "agreed to squeeze us in to a very tight meeting schedule."
The attorney presented "very few general remarks regarding campaign funding, and quickly turned the topic" to the banned adoption of Russian children in the U.S., Goldstone told Billboard. At that point, Trump Jr. "halted" the meeting and "we left," he recalled, declining to answer other questions. Though he has gone radio silent, on Wednesday he did share with his Facebook friends a link to a BBC story with the headline: "Four explosive lines in Trump Jr. emails."
On Tuesday, Trump Jr. had released a statement and the full email string between him and Goldstone, tweeting that the "information they suggested they had about Hillary Clinton I thought was political opposition research. To put this in context, this occurred before the current Russian fever was in vogue."
Goldstone — one of the music industry's few outspoken supporters of President Trump — is now the latest source of trouble for Trump's administration. His unlikely involvement in the saga highlights the music industry's complicated relationship with politics: while music's stars — the artists — tend to lean left of center, making it considerably more difficult for Republicans to book musical talent for their conventions, the music industry's executives run the gamut politically, and tend to align more closely with conservative lawmakers when it comes to issues such as copyright law.
The Trump administration hasn't made any big moves impacting the music business to date, but music lobbyists have been hoping that Trump will be more sympathetic to their interests than former President Barack Obama, who had a closer relationship with the tech sector. Record labels have for years been pushing for reforms to the "safe harbor" labs that shield platforms such as YouTube from liability when users upload tunes without labels' permission, but tech companies have argued that eliminating these protections would punish smaller companies and stifle growth and free speech.
On Nov. 9, a day after Trump won the election, Goldstone posted a blurry photo of himself, Emin Agalarov and Trump sitting at a table at an event, with the caption that the "A-Team Goes to the White House." That posting earned him a rebuke from one of his Facebook friends, who was upset that Trump won the election. "F— you," that friend posted. "You helped this disaster ... when you know what an idiot he [Trump] is. Please forget who I am. We should never have become friends."
Still, many music executives are stunned by Goldstone's involvement and sympathize with his predicament. "The Goldstone I know is the friendliest, happiest and most comedic person; he is a really fun guy," says one music industry executive who has worked with him in the past. "He is not bizarre or a weirdo or anything else that the mainstream press has written about him in the last few days. He is a decent publicist who is always on target when doing his job, which he made fun," that executive adds. "To hear he is part of this international conspiracy thing is like a joke. It reminds me of the movie Being There in that he is not someone who is sinister or evil, but an innocent jerk who has got caught up in this international intrigue that he has no knowledge about, and in turn, was dealing with someone (Donald Trump Jr.) who also had no experience. Rob has really been miscast" by the media.
"I feel bad for him because he may make decent money but he is not a rich guy and yet he could be called before a Congressional hearing or to speak to the FBI, which would require a high level, very experienced, and probably very expensive lawyer," the executive continued.
Goldstone took off for a cruise, leaving the U.S. on June 28, according to his Facebook postings, going to such places as Croatia, Italy and most recently Greece. In that June 28 posting, Goldstone wrote, "That's It New York, see you next year."
This story first appeared on billboard.com