Presidential races

CIA veteran expected to announce challenge to Trump

Evan McMullin, a Central Intelligence Agency veteran and former chief policy director of the House Republican Conference, is expected to announce an independent presidential bid on Monday, according to multiple reports.

{mosads}The bid, reported first by Joe Scarborough, a former GOP congressman from Florida and host of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe,” highlights the angst in GOP circles over Donald Trump, the Republican nominee for president who has fallen behind Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton in polls. 

Yet McMullin, who served for two years as chief policy director at the House Republican Conference, would seem to have little chance of garnering enough attention to truly challenge Trump or Clinton. 

Scarborough said the independent presidential candidate would aim to get on 20 to 30 state ballots, adding that he personally thinks the campaign “has more to do with stopping Donald Trump than actually electing a president.”

“Certainly they still believe they can go past the 270 [electoral votes] threshold so this person will be able to be in debates,” Scarborough said.

To get into the presidential debates, a candidate must poll at 15 percent in five national surveys leading up to the three scheduled debates and show that they are appearing on enough state ballots to have a path to 270 electoral votes.

McMullin would appear to face hurdles on both accounts. Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson and Green Party candidate Jill Stein, for their parts, are polling at less than 15 percent.

McMullin served in the national clandestine service at the CIA for 11 years, ending in 2010, where he managed clandestine operations related to counterterrorism and other issues, according to his LinkedIn profile.

He then went to work at Goldman Sachs in San Francisco before working for two years as a senior adviser at the House Foreign Affairs Committee and a little under two years as chief policy director at the House Republican Conference.

“The House Republican Conference has zero knowledge of his intentions,” Nate Hodson, a spokesman for the House Republican Conference, said in a statement. McMullin is no longer an employee of the conference, a GOP aide noted. 

McMullin is not well known outside of GOP circles in Washington, D.C.

Bloomberg’s Mark Halperin said on MSNBC that a Wikipedia page for McMullin was created on Monday. On Twitter, he had just a couple hundred followers before reports about his plans were published. 

McMullin’s Twitter profile was updated Monday morning and linked to a website titled “Evan McMullin for president,” which appeared to show his campaign logo. “It’s never too late to do the right thing. And if we work together, there’s nothing we can’t achieve,” read text on the page.

“In a year where Americans have lost faith in the candidates of both major parties, it’s time for a generation of new leadership to step up,” McMullin said in a statement to ABC News

“It’s never too late to do the right thing, and America deserves much better than either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton can offer us. I humbly offer myself as a leader who can give millions of disaffected Americans a conservative choice for President,” he added.

Republicans have watched in horror over the last week as Trump has engaged in a series of controversies widely viewed as damaging not only his electoral prospects but those of down-ballot Republicans as well.

He walked into a feud with Khizr and Ghazala Khan, the Muslim parents of a U.S. soldier who died in the Iraq War, after Khizr Khan questioned Trump’s knowledge of the Constitution.
Later, Trump refused to endorse Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) in his primary battle before reversing course at the end of the week.
On Friday, former CIA acting director Mike Morell in an op-ed in The New York Times said he would be backing Clinton for president. 
Republicans dissatisfied with Trump have failed to find a star candidate to run as an independent, but McMullin’s run could at least give them an alternative to Clinton, Johnson and Stein.  

McMullin has criticized Trump in recent weeks, perhaps foreshadowing arguments he could use.

“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 last week.

“They are an indispensable asset in this fight. Attacking them as a group makes America weaker, not stronger,” he added.

At the same time, a number of Republicans argue the party would be better off either uniting around Trump or focusing its efforts on saving as many House and Senate seats as possible if it appears that Trump will lose the White House. 

Some in the GOP have long viewed efforts to find an alternative to Trump as a waste of energy and resources.

McMullin and Trump both attended the Wharton School, the business school at the University of Pennsylvania, where McMullin received an MBA in 2011.

Veteran GOP strategist and Florida-based media consultant Rick Wilson is expected to be involved in McMullin’s campaign, according to BuzzFeed.

McMullin has indicated he has long been opposed to Trump’s campaign and referred to Trump in late July as an “authoritarian.” He also called on Trump in May to release his tax returns, which Trump has refused to do, citing an audit.

This report was updated at 9:42 a.m.

Tags Donald Trump Gary Johnson Hillary Clinton Paul Ryan

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