WASHINGTON — Here’s a pop quiz testing your skills at covert political scheming: If you were claiming to set up a super-secret meeting to deliver Russian intelligence to an American presidential campaign, would you:
A) Put it in writing, in an email;
B) Publish proof on social media of your attendance;
C) Keep your Facebook page completely open for another year, for anyone to peruse;
D) All of the above.
If you answered, “No,” to any of these questions, you’re no Rob Goldstone. He’s the globe-trotting, celebrity-schmoozing music impresario who set up a now-infamous encounter between the Trump campaign and a Russian lawyer, and made little effort to hide it.
His modus operandi was so overt, so obvious, that it’s provoked head-scratching and stoked conspiracy theories. Some of the president’s defenders say this had to be a setup, perhaps by Democrats.
Alternatively, others simply dismiss the whole thing as a non-story, for different reasons: there’s no evidence the meeting yielded anything, denials of any Kremlin ties, and indications that Democrats have also picked up political tips from foreigners.
But some friends of the British-born music agent were left with the impression he’d been helpful to Donald Trump’s election.
While Goldstone’s wide-open Facebook page usually shows pictures of celebrity acquaintances like Michael Jackson and Robert De Niro, and shots of his constant travels, it did get political last Nov. 8 — the night Trump was elected.
Goldstone posted: ”Pennsylvania about to be called which would give presidency to Trump.” In another, he showed a picture of himself, Trump, and a mutual friend captioned: ”The A-Team — headed to the White House.”
Some friends were annoyed.
One swore at Goldstone and posted the message: ”You helped this disaster happen when you know what an idiot (Trump) is. Please forget who I am. We should never have become friends.”
This was a few months after the now-notorious meeting Goldstone set up at Trump Tower involving Donald Trump Jr., campaign manager Paul Manafort, and presidential staffer-and-son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Goldstone marked a geotag for the visit and posted it on his Facebook page.
Email records show he presented the meeting as an opportunity to get information collected by the Russian government. He said the information was dirt on Hillary Clinton gathered in a bid to help Donald Trump, and sent his way via Russian prosecutor and it would be shared at Trump Tower by someone he called a Russian government lawyer.
The lawyer in question has denied links to the Kremlin; the Trump team says the meeting was a bust; and the president’s fans are dismissing the episode, alternatively, as a non-story, or evidence of a double-standard against Trump, or a Democratic setup.
But Donald Trump Jr. was excited because he replied to Goldstone: “I love it.”
An emerging theme on the right is that this was a setup. Some are pointing out that the Russian lawyer posted an anti-Trump social-media message last year, and appeared at a congressional hearing to watch Barack Obama’s Russia ambassador testify.