Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin told Yahoo News on Friday that Donald Trump has tapped into a very real frustration and desire for change among everyday Americans. But he said Trump needlessly poisons that impulse with the public’s fear and prejudice.
McMullin, a former CIA case officer, launched his long-shot campaign for the White House this week to give disaffected conservatives an alternative to the Republican Party’s nominee on Election Day.
The CIA veteran spoke to Yahoo News Guest Anchor Stephanie Sy about why Americans are ready for a third-party candidate, how Trump poses a threat to national security and what can be gleaned from the billionaire’s rise to the top of the GOP.
“There are a lot of Americans out there who are really, really struggling. They’re struggling under wage stagnation, a lack of other economic opportunities, and at the same time they don’t feel as if the government is hearing them,” he said. “That’s real. Donald Trump has tapped into that in a way that other candidates did not. What he did, though, is he took it a step further and combined that frustration with people’s darkest prejudices and deepest fears.”
The lesson to be learned from Trump’s surprise success in the Republican primaries, McMullin continued, is that the U.S. needs a government that’s more accountable and recognizes that the struggles of Americans are real.
From both sides of the aisle, Trump has been accused of racism, sexism and xenophobia many times throughout his campaign. Trump has provoked some of that criticism with his public feud with the parents of a Muslim American soldier killed in battle, his call for a U.S. judge to recuse himself from a Trump University case because of the jurist’s Mexican heritage and his proposal to bar Muslims from entering the U.S.
“This is a guy who does not care about Americans the way you need to care about Americans in order to lead them, in order to be their president,” McMullin said. “The president of the United States should care about the struggles of Americans. He or she should care about their aspirations. This is what leadership is.”
When asked if Trump is turning the GOP into a party of bigots, McMullin said, “I sure hope not. I believe in the best in people. I believe that leaders and my candidacy will certainly do this, we need to appeal to people’s better selves and I believe that will win the day, I really do.”
McMullin, 40, who has never held elective office, was most recently the chief policy director of the House Republican Conference. He has previously worked as a senior adviser for the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and as an investment banking associate for Goldman Sachs.
He was also an undercover operations officer with the National Clandestine Service at the CIA from 1999 until 2010. He served in conflict zones throughout Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
McMullin says Trump has damaged the goodwill that people across the world feel for the United States and its ideals — hindering the country’s ability to respond to threats posed by ISIS and other terrorist groups. He took issue with Trump’s call to reinstate “enhanced interrogation techniques,” which are considered torture under international law.
“I certainly oppose that position. I think it’s a terrible position to take,” McMullin said. “He also says that he is going to kill the family members of terrorists who are not involved in terrorism themselves. I mean, where to begin? Let me say this: Donald Trump may know a lot about making fancy hotels and we can give him credit for that, but he knows nothing about protecting America.”