Five things to know about Evan McMullin

Former CIA operative and GOP adviser Evan McMullin launched a long-shot bid for the White House on Monday in what looks like a protest campaign for Republicans seeking an alternative to Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpRand's reversal advances Pompeo New allegations could threaten Trump VA pick: reports President Trump puts on the pageantry for Macron’s visit MORE.

Though he’s little-known, the 40-year-old McMullin has extensive experience in international affairs and potentially some influential backers.

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He spent more than a decade as an undercover CIA agent in “hostile environments,” according to his LinkedIn page, with a focus on counterterrorism in the Middle East. 

McMullin earned a graduate degree from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, where Trump was an undergraduate. He briefly spent time in the private sector as an investment banker in the highly competitive mergers and acquisitions department for Goldman Sachs in San Francisco.

McMullin also has close ties to House GOP leadership, spending the last two years acting as an adviser to the Committee on Foreign Affairs and as policy director to the Republican Conference.

Here are five things to know about the latest entrant into the presidential race:

He’s a Never Trump Republican

McMullin’s Facebook page reads like a point-by-point rebuke of Trump’s candidacy and those Republicans who have fallen in line behind the controversial nominee.

Florida-based GOP strategist Rick Wilson, a vocal Trump critic who previously backed Sen. Marco RubioMarco Antonio RubioFormer Florida congressmen mull bipartisan gubernatorial run: report Winners and losers from Jim Bridenstine’s confirmation as NASA administrator GOP Senate candidates trade barbs in brutal Indiana primary MORE (R-Fla.) for president, is assisting McMullin with his campaign launch.

McMullin also has ties to a group of mostly Republican operatives involved with an organization called Better for America (BFA), which has been working for months to put placeholder spots on state ballots across the nation in case a candidate emerged. 

BFA Chairman John Kingston is a conservative donor with ties to President George W. Bush, Sen. John McCainJohn Sidney McCainManchin, Donnelly back Pompeo This week: Senate barrels toward showdown over Pompeo Romney forced into GOP primary for Utah Senate nomination MORE (R-Ariz.) and 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney.

In a statement, a Better for America spokesperson said the group is prohibited from coordinating with any individual campaign and that its ballot lines are not committed to McMullin or any candidate at this point.

But several members of BFA have left the group so they can begin working on McMullin’s campaign or a supporting super-PAC, seemingly putting him in position to benefit from their ballot access work.

Republican pollster Joel Searby and conservative lawyer Mohammed Jazil have resigned from BFA to join McMullin’s campaign, a source said, while ballot access expert Kahlil Byrd and Democratic strategist Ileana Wachtel have left the group to launch a pro-McMullin super-PAC.

He’s a foreign affairs expert

McMullin, who says he speaks “beginners Arabic,” spent more than a decade in the CIA’s elite National Clandestine Service, which took him to Syria, Jordan and Iraq, among other places.

“Managed clandestine operations related to counterterrorism, counterinsurgency, energy, political stability, and counterintelligence, while serving mostly in hostile environments,” his LinkedIn biography says.

McMullin is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan think tank, and earlier this year gave a TedX talk at the London School of Business about genocide with a focus on Syrian President Bashar Assad’s atrocities.

McMullin launched his career as a United Nations volunteer in Jordan, where he helped displaced refugees, which seems to be one of his primary interests.

On social media, McMullin is a fierce advocate for Middle Eastern refugees.

That puts him at odds with Trump, who has called for a ban on Muslims entering the country and warned that terrorists are looking to infiltrate the U.S. through refugee resettlement programs. 

“As Donald Trump continues attacking Muslims and as a former CIA officer, I'd like all Americans to know the truth: American and other Muslims have played a central role in virtually every counterterrorism win we've had since 9/11,” McMullin wrote on Facebook. “They are an indispensable asset in this fight. Attacking them as a group makes America weaker, not stronger.”

He has ties to GOP leadership on Capitol Hill

McMullin has spent the last two years acting as an adviser to Republicans on Capitol Hill, first as an adviser to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and more recently as chief policy director to the House Republican Conference.

His tenure on Capitol Hill appeared to come to an end recently, with one source telling The Hill that House Republicans had no knowledge of his presidential ambitions and that he is no longer employed by the conference. 

McMullin’s Facebook page is full of photos of him with influential GOP figures, including Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanWatchdog group sues for donor list from Ryan-aligned nonprofit Terminating Budget Committees not as absurd as it sounds The writing is on the wall for bump stocks and Congress should finalize it MORE (Wis.) and former Speaker John BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerA warning to Ryan’s successor: The Speakership is no cakewalk With Ryan out, let’s blow up the process for selecting the next Speaker Race for Republican Speaker rare chance to unify party for election MORE (Ohio).

One House source who knows McMullin described him as “incredibly smart” and frustrated by Congressional gridlock.  

The source said colleagues had long believed McMullin harbored political ambitions.

He’s a Mormon

McMullin is a Mormon and received his undergraduate degree from Brigham Young University.

His Facebook page shows he has deep ties to the state of Utah, making him an intriguing pick for Never Trump Republicans.

Polls show Trump running poorly in the deep-red state, with one survey showing Libertarian nominee Gary JohnsonGary Earl JohnsonWithout ranked voting, Pennsylvania's slim margins hide voters' preferences If weed is no longer a crime, why are people still behind bars? Gary Johnson: Trump admin marijuana policy shift could cost him reelection MORE running neck-and-neck with Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonOvernight Defense: Pompeo clears Senate panel, on track for confirmation | Retired officers oppose Haspel for CIA director | Iran, Syria on agenda for Macron visit George H.W. Bush in intensive care GOP chairmen say they have deal with Justice on documents MORE there.

Trump has angered many Mormons, who find common cause with other religious and ethnic minorities that the GOP nominee has disparaged.

Romney, one of the nation’s most prominent Mormons, has still not backed a candidate and has ties to Better for America founder John Kingston.

A Romney endorsement would give McMullin instant credibility and potentially put him on the radar in Utah.

He has private sector experience

McMullin received an MBA from the Wharton School of Business following his stint in the CIA.

He flipped that into a job as an investment banker at the San Francisco office of Goldman Sachs. 

McMullin’s LinkedIn page says he worked in mergers and acquisitions as an associate, a junior but highly competitive position in the cutthroat world of high finance.

McMullin was with the investment banking firm for three years before moving on to Capitol Hill.