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 TrumpTrump handed fake £300bn Nato invoice to German chancellor: report Mark Cuban: My political future 'depends on how things play out' Biggest challenge to Keystone XL not political but economic MORE.
Though he’s little-known, the 40-year-old McMullin has extensive experience in international affairs and potentially some influential backers.
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 RubioSenators introduce new Iran sanctions Senate intel panel has not seen Nunes surveillance documents: lawmakers With no emerging leaders, no clear message, Democrats flounder 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 McCainDemocrats step up calls that Russian hack was act of war McCain: Trump admin must fill State Dept. jobs McCain says he hasn't met with Trump since inauguration 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 RyanLawmakers signal fight for healthcare reform is not over Cotton: House 'moved a bit too fast' on healthcare Budget chief: 'Powers that be in Washington' won healthcare fight MORE (Wis.) and former Speaker John BoehnerJohn BoehnerTrump, GOP fumble chance to govern ObamaCare gets new lease on life Ryan picks party over country by pushing healthcare bill 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 JohnsonTrump’s early economic success reveals Obama failures, could presage 2020 landslide Trump taps former congresswoman for Air Force secretary Other states should join Jerry Brown's California resistance MORE running neck-and-neck with Trump and Democratic nominee Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonMark Cuban: My political future 'depends on how things play out' Democrats step up calls that Russian hack was act of war Comet Ping Pong shooter pleads guilty 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.