A key figure at the Republican national convention where Donald Trump was nominated for president has strong business ties with Ukraine, the Guardian has learned.
The party platform, written at the convention in Cleveland last week, removed references to arming Ukraine in its fight against pro-Russia rebels, who have received material support from the Kremlin. Trump’s links to Russia are under scrutiny after a hack of Democratic national committee emails, allegedly by Russian agents.
The coordinator of the Washington diplomatic corps for the Republicans in Cleveland was Frank Mermoud, a former state department official involved in business ventures in Ukraine via Cub Energy, a Black Sea-focused oil and gas company of which he is a director. He is also on the board of the US Ukraine Business Council.
Mermoud has longstanding ties to Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, who in 2010 helped pro-Russia Viktor Yanukovych refashion his image and win a presidential election in Ukraine. Manafort was brought in earlier this year to oversee the convention operations and its staffing.
Three sources at the convention also told the Guardian that they saw Philip Griffin, a long-time aide to Manafort in Kiev, working with the foreign dignitaries programme.
“After years of working in the Ukraine for Paul and others, it was surprising to run into Phil working at the convention,” one said.
The change to the platform on arming Ukraine was condemned even by some Republicans. Senator Rob Portman of Ohio described it as “deeply troubling”. Veteran party operative and lobbyist Charlie Black said the “new position in the platform doesn’t have much support from Republicans”, adding that the change “was unusual”.