Republican Evan McMullin to launch presidential run against Trump

Evan McMullin

Evan McMullin, a little-known former CIA operative, is launching a third-party bid for president as a conservative alternative to Donald Trump.

The independent run, first reported by BuzzFeed and MSNBC’s Morning Joe, comes as a faction of Republicans remain reticent to embrace Trump as the party’s presidential nominee.

McMullin, who until recently was employed as the chief policy director of the House Republican Conference, told ABC News there was still time to mount a campaign that could prove to be a spoiler in certain GOP-leaning states whereTrump has lost ground in recent polls.

“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,” he said in a statement. “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.”

A “McMullin for President” campaign fundraising website has been set up atEvanMcMullin.com, which features a picture of McMullin with the text: “Standing up to run for president because it’s never too late to do the right thing.”

McMullin’s candidacy is being pushed by backers of the “Never Trump” movement, which formed before the former reality TV star wrapped up the Republican nomination but has struggled until now to field an alternative candidate.

Better for America, a group formed by Never Trump proponents, indicated that some influential Republicans would come out in support of McMullin following his announcement. He is expected to file paperwork on Monday afternoon, but would nonetheless face hurdles getting on the ballot in states where the deadline has already passed.

But McMullin holds little name recognition even among Republicans in Washington. He has been a vocal critic of Trump’s on Twitter, but hardly a recognizable member of the “Never Trump” movement.

McMullin is 40 years old, unmarried and has never previously run for office. He holds an MBA from Wharton business school, which Trump attended as an undergraduate.

McMullin’s campaign website does not yet have a page outlining his policy platforms or one detailing his personal biography. The site, which was originally created in October 2011 andappears to have been updated on Sunday, links to his social media pages, including his Facebook and Instagramprofiles, which do not have any posts.

McMullin has repeatedly denounced Trump as an “authoritarian” and used the #NeverTrump hashtag on Twitter, where he boasted 135 followers before his presidential announcement propelled him to more than 7,000 by mid-morning on Monday.

Prior to his announcement, McMullin’s most high-profile public engagement appears to be a TedX talk on genocide that he delivered at the London Business School in April. In the talk, McMullin recalled time spent studying in Damascus as a student and noted that he spoke Arabic, though on his LinkedIn profile he lists only English and Portuguese under languages.

McMullin served for more than 10 years as an undercover operations officer with the CIA’s National Clandestine Service, including posts in Africa, the Middle East and Asia, according to a short biography published on the University of Pennsylvania’s website, his alma mater.

Asked to confirm McMullin’s employment and to detail his career at Langley, CIA spokesman Jonathan Liu declined to comment.

He returned to the University of Pennsylvania this spring to deliver a lecture on the future of the Republican party.

“I believe that our country is at an important point in our history and the decisions we make over the next year will drive, of course, the direction that our country takes,” he said in the lecture.

Though McMullin has never held public office, his mother, Lanie McMullin, is involved in local government, serving as the economic development executive director for the city of Everett, Washington, about 30 miles north of Seattle.

McMullin previously advised the House committee on foreign affairs on national security issues and was the chief policy director with the House Republican Conference.

Nate Hodson, a spokesman for the House GOP, said McMullin no longer worked as its policy director.

“The House Republican Conference has zero knowledge of his intentions,” Hodson said in a statement.

Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a Washington congresswoman and the House Republican conference chair, is supporting Trump.

McMullin’s Twitter profile reveals a sharp interest in the Syrian civil war and a disappointment with the US’s response to the conflict, still raging in its fifth year. By some estimations, the war has caused between 280,000 and 470,000 deaths, created millions of refugees and contributed to the emergence of the Islamic State group.

In 2001, McMullin worked as a volunteer for the United Nations high commissioner for refugees in the office of refugee resettlement, where he vetted and processed UN-recognized refugees from the Middle East and Africa for resettlement to third countries, according to his LinkedIn profile.

“People who talk tough about Isis, but then spend all of their time attacking refugees, know little about keeping America safe,” McMullin wrote in January during a Republican debate.

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