Evan McMullin, newly declared independent presidential candidate. (Screen shot via Bloomberg)

Evan McMullin, 40, a former CIA counterterrorism officer and former chief policy director for the House Republican Conference, announced the launching this week of his presidential campaign as an independent.

While initial reporting on McMullin focused on his strong distaste for Republican nominee Donald Trump, McMullin wants voters to know more about his policy positions and platform. He joined Mark Halperin and Donny Deutsch on “With All Due Respect” to discuss his qualifications.

They began by discussing same-sex marriage, which McMullin personally opposes for religious reasons. He said, however, “I respect the decision of the [Supreme Court] and I think it’s time to move on,” adding that “my faith isn’t everybody else’s faith.” They also discussed foreign policy, Social Security and the American educational system before addressing McMullin’s background.

McMullin asserts he is qualified because of his experience fighting terrorism, noting “everything [Trump] says about the topic is absolutely silly — in fact, damaging to our effort.” The interview wrapped with McMullin saying, “Donald Trump has no idea what makes this country special, or great, or however he wants to say it. He has no idea.”

McMullin previously stated his opposition to both of the major-party candidates in a “Letter to America.” In it he wrote that Hillary Clinton “fails the basic tests of judgment and ethics any candidate for President must meet.” On Trump, he declared:

Donald Trump appeals to the worst fears of Americans at a time when we need unity, not division. Republicans are deeply divided by a man who is perilously close to gaining the most powerful position in the world, and many rightly see him as a real threat to our republic. Given his obvious personal instability, putting him in command of our military and nuclear arsenal would be deeply irresponsible.

McMullin’s campaign is closely associated with the #NeverTrump movement. In a CNN interview this week, he labeled Trump as “inhuman” and “a weak candidate.”

Maggie Haberman of The New York Times explains that McMullin, a Mormon, poses a threat to the Trump campaign:

If Mr. McMullin is competitive nowhere else but Utah [his home state], he still could nonetheless have an effect on the race: Mr. Trump cannot win the presidency without holding the states that Mr. Romney won, his aides have concluded.

That Mr. McMullin has a national security background makes him a more appealing option, potentially, to conservatives who cannot bring themselves to support Mr. Trump, but who strongly dislike Mrs. Clinton.

Matt Welch of Reason.com explains a huge problem faced by McMullin: He is “already 0 for 26 in getting his name on state ballots as a candidate for president.” Libertarian Party nominee Gary Johnson, meanwhile, has gotten his name on 39 — and counting. And the Green Party, Welch adds, is on the ballot in 27 states.

According to Shushannah Walshe of ABC News, McMullin — whose campaign is being backed by former employees of the nonprofit Better for America — has some support from #NeverTrump conservatives. “Better for America says prominent Republicans will back McMullin, who has some well-known GOP operatives behind the effort, including Republican consultant Rick Wilson and Floridian pollster and operative Joel Searby,” Walshe writes. “The group has been partly funded by John Kingston, a Boston conservative donor who bundled for Mitt Romney.”

—Posted by Emma Niles

Wait, before you go…

If you're reading this, you probably already know that non-profit, independent journalism is under threat worldwide. Independent news sites are overshadowed by larger heavily funded mainstream media that inundate us with hype and noise that barely scratch the surface.  We believe that our readers deserve to know the full story. Truthdig writers bravely dig beneath the headlines to give you thought-provoking, investigative reporting and analysis that tells you what’s really happening and who’s rolling up their sleeves to do something about it.

Like you, we believe a well-informed public that doesn’t have blind faith in the status quo can help change the world. Your contribution of as little as $5 monthly or $35 annually will make you a groundbreaking member and lays the foundation of our work.

Support Truthdig