Ex-CIA spy takes on Trump for reluctant Republicans

  • Yashwant Raj, Hindustan Times, Washington
  • Updated: Aug 08, 2016 23:51 IST
File photo of Evan McMullin, who is ready to launch an independent presidential bid aimed more at derailing Donald Trump than winning. (Twitter)

A former CIA operative and policy director to senior Republicans is ready to launch an independent presidential bid aimed more at derailing Donald Trump than winning.

Evan McMullin, a relatively unknown figure, has no realistic chances of winning, not after entering the race at this late hour when many states have closed their nomination process.

But he could provide an alternative to Republicans who don’t want to vote for their party nominee, and there were plenty of them rallied around #NeverTrump, or his Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

McMullin, who is expected to file his papers on Monday, edited his Twitter profile to announce his run: “Standing up to run for president because it’s never too late to do the right thing.”

There was no response from the Trump campaign or the nominee, who delivered a major speech in Detroit outlining his economic vision for the US.

McMullin, 40, is a 11-year veteran of the CIA and chief policy director for the House Republican Conference. He went to Wharton, like Trump, and worked for Goldman Sachs.

And he opposes Trump, as is clear from his tweets.

“Authoritarians like @realDonaldTrump use promises of law & order to justify infringing on civil rights as they consolidate control by force,” he tweeted some days ago.

Not much else is known about him, his backers or his campaign team. Most supporters and critics of Trump reacted with “Evan who?” when the news first broke on Monday.

Erik Erickson, editor of the conservative Red State and a member of the #NeverTrump group, knew a bit more. He believes McMullin could get backing from leading conservatives.

“The Kochs, I hear, are mulling it over as is Romney,” Erickson wrote, referring to billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch, who fund Republicans generously, and Mitt Romney.

The Kochs have not endorsed Trump yet, and have repeatedly rebuffed attempts to make them meet the nominee, and Romney has been an outspoken critic, calling Trump a “conman, a fake”.

Many Republicans remain leery of Trump and have said they will not vote for him — including the only two living former Republican presidents, George H W Bush and George W Bush.

And some of them, such as Hewlett-Packard executive Meg Whitman and congressman Richard Hanna, have crossed over to Clinton, calling Trump a “demagogue” and “dangerous”.

An attempt by a group of Republicans to deny Trump the nomination at the party’s convention — by freeing up delegates — was crushed by his campaign and party leaders.

But they didn’t give up, and continued to scout around for someone to take on Trump. They even tried Romney, but he wasn’t interested despite his strong views about the nominee.

And now McMullin. But can he stop Trump, or win himself?

“Right now,” Erickson wrote about McMullin’s chances, “he appears to be the candidate for Republicans who do not like Trump and nothing more. He’ll need to be more to win.”

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