The key players in the escalating Donald Trump Jr. email scandal include a tabloid hack-turned-flack who hobnobs with the czars, a wealthy Azerbaijani pop singer who once belted out Elvis covers in New Jersey and a shadowy Kremlin-connected lawyer.
The central figure is British music publicist Rob Goldstone, a former reporter who helped broker the June 2016 meeting between Trump Jr. and lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
Goldstone set up the pow-wow on behalf of his client, crooner Emin Agalarov — the son of a billionaire with ties to both Russian President Vladimir Putin and President Trump, and the former son-in-law of Azerbaijani president Illhan Aliyev.
But friends say they don’t think jovial PR man was trying to personally insert himself into geo-politics — just doing the kind of wheeling and dealing he’s known for.
“He does people favors. That’s what a good PR person does, introducing people to other people,” his client Ivan Wilzig, who also goes by Sir Ivan, told The Post. “He knew the sons of two powerful billionaires and he figured he was doing people a favor.”
The Manchester-born Goldstone worked as a reporter for the Sun and Mirror before moving to Australia and switching teams to public relations, where he repped huge names including Michael Jackson, Cyndi Lauper, Julio Iglesias, James Taylor, BB King and Poison.
Keeping big secrets about celebrities was never easy for a guy who cut his teeth as an entertainment reporter.
“I would go into meetings with a client and they would tell me something and I would think, with my journalist’s hat on, ‘wow, that is an amazing story’,” he told the Jewish Telegraph in 2015.
“But, of course, as their PR guys, we did not want it to get out.”
Goldstone moved to New York in 1990 and built a similarly star-studded roster, but when the larger than life character — he once penned a piece for the New York Times about the difficulties of globetrotting in his 285-lbs, 5-foot-7 frame— began representing Emin in 2012, it became a virtually full-time gig.
The 37-year-old crooner may not be a household name in the US, but his baby-faced good looks and Sinatra-in-the-club dance tracks have made him a megastar in Russia, where he performed for 50,000 fans in front of the Winter Palace in Saint Petersburg last year.
Still, Emin also has strong stateside connections — namely in New Jersey.
The singer spent his teen years in Bergen County, where he launched his music career singing Elvis Presley cover songs at an open mic event in Ridgewood when he was 19 years old.
“The whole school made fun of me because I thought I was the new Russian Elvis in town,” he told the Chicago Tribune of his time at Tenafly High School, where he was a student before attending Marymount Manhattan College.
He later raised his own kids in Alpine, where the family owns a $7 million-dollar mansion.
Emin’s oligarch father Aras is a close personal friend of Putin, who helped make his dad a very wealthy man — worth at least $1.9 billion, according to Forbes.
And thanks to his home country connections, Aras arranged for Emin to marry the Azerbaijani president’s daughter, with whom he had two kids before divorcing in 2015.
Goldstone had met Donald Trump Sr. through the New York social scene and when his client. model Patricia Velasquez, appeared on “Celebrity Apprentice” in 2012.
But Emin told The Post in a late May interview that he first became close to the future commander-in-chief after he and Goldstone reached out to the Trump’s Miss Universe organization while casting a music video.
“[We] wanted to find the most beautiful woman in the world — an international, beautiful woman — and Rob said, ‘Miss Universe,’” he said.
They arranged for then-Miss Universe Olivia Culpo to appear in the video — and the Agalarovs partnered with the Trumps to bring the whole pageant to Moscow in 2013.
“After doing the video, we were invited to Miss USA with my family in Las Vegas, where I met Mr. Trump and we signed a contract to bring [Miss] Universe to Russia,” he said.
The event was supposed to be the first meeting between Trump and Putin, Emin revealed — but that never came to pass.
“We knew that he wanted to meet with Trump. It never worked out because the king of some country was visiting Russia, and that never happened,” he said.
But the Agalarovs, Trumps and Goldstone remained close — both Goldstone and Emin have claimed there was a Trump Tower planned for Moscow that never came to fruition.
As Donald Trump entered the race for the US presidency, both men enthusiastically cheered on his candidacy on social media.
On June 3 last year, Goldman sent the now famous emails to Trump Jr., saying Emin wanted him to hook up with a Russian lawyer who had “ some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary.”
Exactly how Veselnitskaya, the lawyer, fits into this web remains less clear.
In an interview with NBC Tuesday, she strenuously denied having — or offering — any dirt on Clinton.
“I never had any damaging or sensitive information about Hillary Clinton. It was never my intention to have that,” she told the network.
The 42-year-old attorney does have ties to the Kremlin, however.
The elegant brunette worked for entrepreneur Denis Katsyv, the son of the vice-president of the state-owned Russian Railways, to lobby against the 2012 Magnitsky Act, which allowed the US to impose sanctions on Russian officials.
The act is named for Sergei Magnitsky — who died in a Russian prison after he blew the whistle on tax fraud at Denis Katsyv’s company Prevezon Holdings.
A source told the The Times of London that Veselnitskaya coordinated her lobbying effort with the office of Yury Chaika, Russia’s prosecutor-general and a Putin ally.
Veselnitskaya says the only reason for her meeting with Trump Jr. — also attended by his brother-in-law Jared Kushner and campaign manager Paul Manafort — was to discuss the act.
“I did not have an assignment from the Kremlin, there were no orders from the government,” she told The Washington Post on Tuesday.
She told the paper the meeting came about when a “friend” offered to introduce her to a “friend” — but didn’t respond when asked if that friend was Emin.
“I think it was someone who wanted to look like they were a big shot,” she told the paper.
“Goldstone. I think he said he had something very important from the Kremlin to make it look like he is a big deal.”