It’s far from certain that the most-talked-about meeting at Trump Tower—Donald Trump Jr.’s sit-down with a Russian lawyer on June 9, 2016—will amount to anything more than a rattling good story.
It was promised that the Russian lawyer, Natalia Veselnitskaya, now allegedly linked to the Kremlin, could provide damaging information that would benefit the Trump presidential effort. Her information supposedly included malfeasance in the campaign of then-Democrat presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton.
Even if the story ends here, it remains messy and, unfortunately for proud PR practitioners everywhere, one of the meeting’s facilitators, Rob Goldstone, is described in the media as a “PR exec” and co-founder of boutique firm Oui 2 Public Relations. Ouch.
A former tabloid journalist in Britain, Goldstone also is a PR man with much business in Russia, particularly with pop singer Emin Agalarov, whose real estate tycoon father is tightly associated with Russian leader Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump.
It was Emin who apparently alerted PR man Goldstone to the existence of a Russian lawyer who supposedly had damaging information on the Clinton campaign. It is alleged Goldstone worked on the Miss Universe pageant when it was held in Russia. Apparently that is where he got to know Donald Trump, Emin and his father, who is sometimes referred to as the Donald Trump of Russia, for his real estate prowess. Goldstone contacted Donald Trump Jr. (pictured above). This intricate web is getting Goldstone a lot of unwanted press coverage. That’s another ouch.
Like it or not, the meeting Goldstone helped arrange for Donald Trump Jr., which came to light Saturday in a NY Times story, hardly burnishes the term “PR.” The affair could further accelerate PR’s disappearance from job titles. For sure, it’s only guilt by association for PR at this point. It’s also only guilt by association for some of Goldstone’s clients, including actor Betty White.
And as noted above, nobody is guilty of anything at the moment. Moreover, there’s no indication charges will be filed as a result of the Justice Department’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. The meeting may turn out to be “much ado about nothing,” as Trump Jr.’s lawyer Alan Futerfas promises.
Still, it’s a sad moment for PR simply because the public will make an association between PR and yet another reminder that American politics sometimes can be a sleazy endeavor. Fortunately, sad moments pass eventually.
PR pros can take solace in the fact that in the name of one of the profession’s most important buzzwords, transparency, Donald Trump Jr. this morning released, via Twitter, a slew of emails between him and Goldstone surrounding the meeting.
In the email chain Goldstone writes to Trump Jr. that the damaging information from the lawyer “is part of Russia and its government’s support for Mr. Trump…” In earlier comments about the incident, Donald Trump Jr. said he took the meeting but didn’t know whom he was meeting with. The email chain seems to contradict that, unless he admits he failed to read carefully Goldstone’s email.
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