Evan McMullin was my guest this morning. The independent conservative running for president is a BYU grad, former Mormon missionary (to Brazil), CIA Agent, Wharton Grad, Goldman Sachs investment banker, and House GOP policy czar. The interview:
HH: All right, now I’m joined by the man who would stop Donald Trump and beat him, Evan McMullin. Evan, welcome to the Hugh Hewitt Show, great to have you.
EM: Thank you very much, Hugh, great to be here.
HH: Evan, first of all, a lot of people don’t know who you are.
HH: Can you give us some quick background on where you were born, raised, went to school, your years in the CIA, and at the House, etc?
EM: Absolutely. I was born in Utah and raised in a rural area outside of Seattle, Washington. I studied at Brigham Young University for undergrad, and I started working for the Central Intelligence Agency while I was there.
HH: Are you a Mormon, Evan?
EM: I am. I am, yes.
HH: And did you do a mission?
EM: I did. I served a mission between high school and college in Brazil, in Southern Brazil.
HH: Do you speak Portuguese?
EM: I do.
HH: Okay, cool. Keep going, please.
EM: It’s a beautiful language. So I started working for the Central Intelligence Agency while I was at Brigham Young University. I would do a semester there and a semester back in Washington. Once I graduated, I went undercover and into clandestine operations training. After, or while I was in training, 9/11 happened. And so soon after I finished training, I shipped off to South Asia and the Middle East and North Africa, and would spend the next several years operating there undercover against al Qaeda and other terrorist groups.
HH: Can you expand on what that means? I mean, were you an armed paramilitary? Or were you a chief of station or an agent in place? What were you?
EM: Well, yes, I served in war zones, and I was certainly armed, and it was certainly a paramilitary situation, and you know, it just depends on the circumstances, right? If you’re in Paris, you’re in one mode, and if you’re in Kabul, you’re in another. So…
HH: My friend, Rorke Denver, likes to talk about people who have been in gunfights are different from people who are not. Have you been in gunfights?
EM: I would say, look, I’ve had my fair share of exposure to firefights and conflict. Yes, that’s fair to say.
HH: That’s what I’m getting at. Please keep going.
EM: Yeah, yeah, so I spent several years doing that. I was in all the war zones and all the hostile zones where our terrorist adversaries were hiding and operating. After it looked that, to be under control, I completed my service and started studying at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Then I went to Goldman Sachs from there, and into its investment banking division in San Francisco, where I worked with companies in a variety of industries helping them compete globally. And then while I was there, I was contacted by the House Foreign Affairs Committee who asked me to return to service and to serve as a senior advisor on issues related to my background to the chairman there. And as I did that, after I did that for a couple of years, I was asked to come up to House leadership, to the House Republican Conference, where I served for another nearly two years as the House, as the chief policy director for the conference.
HH: Then it was off to Goldman Sachs? And what are you doing now?
EM: Sorry, what was that, Hugh?
HH: Did you leave the House for Goldman Sachs?
EM: No, I left Goldman Sachs for the House.
HH: Okay, I got that backwards. Okay.
EM: Yeah, exactly. So it was Wharton, Goldman Sachs and then was asked to come back to serve in Congress in those capacities, and so that’s how it worked.
HH: That is a remarkable career of service to the country, and I appreciate it, Evan.
EM: Thank you, Hugh.
HH: Now let’s turn to the campaign.
HH: Charles Krauthammer said this yesterday about your candidacy, cut number three:
CK: I think we would agree that is slightly over the top. He’s not running for president. He’s running to be what Ralph Nader was to Al Gore in 2000, although he did it inadvertently, which is to syphon off enough conservative, traditional conservative Republicans to cost Trump perhaps a state or two in a close election. It’s a way to give an anti-Trump Republican who cannot possibly stomach voting for Hillary a place to go rather than writing in another name. That’s what he’s trying to do. He’s allowed to do it. But he’s not running for president.
HH: Evan McMullin, your reaction to Charles Krauthammer?
EM: Look, I have so much respect for Charles, but respectfully, I must disagree with that. Donald Trump is already losing to Hillary Clinton. I just entered this race yesterday. He’s already been losing badly to Hillary Clinton. He’s been alienating Americans. He’s been weakening this country and doing it on behalf of his own self-interests, and perhaps of even the interests of Vladimir Putin. He has already, he’s a weak, weak candidate. His performance speaks for itself, and I’ve had nothing to do with that. I’m entering this race because I’m deeply concerned about Hillary Clinton and her belief that he is unaccountable to the American people. I’m entering this race because yes, I think Donald Trump is dangerous for our country. I think he makes us weaker, not stronger. And I think Americans deserve a better choice. I think they deserve leadership that puts the country before themselves, and I don’t think Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump fit that description. So the American people are hungry for this. They’re calling for this. The negatives on both of these candidates are so high. Such a small percentage of the electorate has supported them with their vote. This country is calling for new leadership, a new generation of leadership, I believe. And that is what this is about. We are in it to win it. We are going to fight and scrap and claw until the end. And we believe that we are going to rally the support of Americans across this country who believe that it’s time for something better, finally.
HH: Now Evan McMullin, one of the people who is rumored to be supporting you is Paul Singer, the American hedge fund manager. Is that true?
EM: I haven’t spoken to Paul. I would welcome his support. I haven’t spoken to him. There are engagements between our team and his team, of course. We appreciate any support he sees fit to offer, certainly.
HH: Is Bill Kristol part of your inner circle?
EM: Bill Kristol is somebody who I consulted ahead of making this decision. I think Bill is a great American who understands what makes this country special. He understands the sources of its strength and the course for its brightest future.
HH: I agree with that.
EM: And so yes, I, yeah…
HH: I agree with that. I’m just curious if you are the sort of replacement for David French?
EM: If I’m the replacement for David, no. Look, I made this decision on my own. And yes, I consulted with a variety of people, and not just Bill. There are many people who I consulted, but this is something that’s been stirring within me for months. It’s not, let me tell you, Hugh, I hoped for months that somebody else would step forward, and I had some names in mind, major conservative elders. I hoped that they would step forward. They didn’t. As we entered what is the last phase of this election cycle, the general phase, I grew concerned that the time was quickly, the window was quickly closing for any kind of possible alternative bid, credible, conservative alternative bid. And knowing that I had some unique experiences that line up directly with the challenges, the primary challenges that this country faces, security, job opportunities and government reform, I could no longer stay on the sidelines, and I felt compelled to act.
HH: Now the irony, Evan McMullin, is that in 2012, there was a slice of the Evangelical world that would not vote for Mitt Romney because he was a Mormon. Now, there is a large slice of the Mormon world that will not vote for Donald Trump because he is not an Evangelical. That is ironic. I immediately assessed your campaign as running to win in Utah, Idaho, possibly Arizona, Colorado and the rest of the mountain states, thus denying Donald Trump the 270 necessary electoral votes to win, while he might deny Hillary Clinton the necessary 270 electoral votes to win. Is that a fair assessment of your campaign?
EM: It really isn’t. I am deeply troubled by both of these candidates. I believe they’re both horrendous options for this great nation. And we are in it to provide an alternative to both of those candidates to Americans, especially those who feel so disaffected by these options and by the divisiveness of their rhetoric. Our country needs better leaders, needs leaders that put the nation ahead of themselves, leaders that unify us. We are stronger, it is absolutely true, it is a real thing that we are stronger when we are united. And I believe we can be united through universal, the universal founding ideals of this nation. Those are neither conservative, they are embraced by true conservatives, but I believe they’re neither conservative nor, you know, partisan in general. These are universal truths.
HH: But as a practical matter, you’ve missed filing deadlines in enough states that I don’t see how you could even get to 270, if you know, lightning struck. I do see you winning a few states. Whatever resources you have, whatever superPAC funds you, wouldn’t it make the most strategic sense to strike at those states where you can actually win a majority, and they are Mountain West states with a large Mormon population that is you know, just simply estranged from Donald Trump’s approach and style?
EM: Well, it’s certainly true, Hugh, that we will compete in states that we find most advantageous to us, especially. We intend to compete nationally in certain ways, and be very focused in others. And so yeah, I mean, of course we’ll make those kinds of judgments, but it’s the Mountain West, but it’s not just the Mountain West. There are other parts of the country that are deeply opposed to the kinds of options being offered. And we hope to offer a better alternative.
HH: Evan McMullin, what is your website, by the way?
EM: www.evanmcmullin.com, Hugh. Thanks for asking, and we invite all to visit and to donate and get involved. You can do it through that website.
HH: And your Twitter handle?
HH: All right, now back to Hillary Clinton for a moment. I use the mnemonic device, Every Liberal Really Seems So, So Sad. E is for Egypt, which she almost gave to the Muslim Brotherhood. L is for Libya, which is an ISIS stronghold. R really is for the Russian reset. The S’s are Syria, which is in a civil war, the status of forces agreement she did not negotiate, the Supreme Court which is threatened, and the server which was illegal. Are you going to run mostly against Hillary Clinton or mostly against Donald Trump, because there is a finite, every minute is a decision on your part to run against one or the other.
EM: We’ve got an idea and a plan, but we will be challenging them both very head on. And I liked what you did there, Hugh. And it’s, you know, the biggest thing that just sticks out in my mind so much is that Americans feel like they’re not being heard by this, by the government anymore. It’s a huge problem. The power in this country comes from the people. It belongs to the people, and it is too centralized in Washington, too far away from the people’s voices to be heard. And we have Hillary Clinton who believes that she is unaccountable to the people as seen by, as evidenced by her use of that private server. We can simply, at this time, when Americans feel like they’re not being heard, elect a president who feels like she’s above the law and above accountability to the American people.
HH: Do you believe that the server was illegal?
EM: I believe that it certainly was against State Department policies, and yes, I do believe it was illegal. But you know, I’m more focused on what it says about her. Even if it, regardless, she was trying to avoid accountability, Hugh. I mean, it’s incredible. She went to great lengths to avoid accountability. And by the way, she was willing to do that knowing that she would be compromising classified information and putting the lives of my colleagues at risk.
HH: Let me ask you as well, I always ask first time guests on the Hugh Hewitt, and Even McMullin, you may be back often in the course of this campaign if you catch fire.
EM: I hope so.
HH: Have you read The Looming Tower by Lawrence Wright?
EM: I haven’t, but I definitely should.
HH: And how about…
EM: It’s on my list.
HH: Yeah, and do you believe, my other second question which is a GPS question, do you believe Alger Hiss was a communist spy?
EM: Oh, I don’t know that I could comment on that either way. I guess these things, if we’re going to keep talking, Hugh, I need to look into these things and I can give you an answer. I can give you an opinion.
HH: All right, then I’ll go with the two recommendations. I think everyone ought to read Hillbilly Elegy to understand Trump’s appeal, which just came out. It’s on the New York Times bestseller list, and Ron Fournier’s book, Love That Boy, to understand how presidents interact with every kind of American, including special needs kids. What are you doing now? I mean, what’s the infrastructure? Who’s your campaign manager? How are you campaigning? What are you doing?
EM: Well, we just launched yesterday as you know. Joel Searby is my campaign manager, and I’ve also got…
HH: Can you give me that name again?
EM: Joel Searby.
EM: He’s, go ahead.
HH: How do you spell it?
HH: Okay, and so are you traveling? Or are you just making phone calls for money, or doing media?
EM: No, I mean, well, it’s been wall to wall media, actually, and also calls to key partners, certainly And that’s not just fundraising. It’s other people who want to be supportive, members of Congress and others, people in the states who are interested in our message about returning more power closer to the people back to the states. So it’s a lot of that, but mostly, it’s been wall to wall media. But we’ll be on some morning shows this morning, and you know, we’re doing a lot of media, which is great. We love it, and it’s a great opportunity to engage with the American people.
HH: Can you get to 15% to qualify for the debates?
EM: I sure hope so, Hugh. We’re going to fight for that. You know, that’s important. I would absolutely, absolutely love to be on that debate stage, and to be able to engage with Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton directly. I think they’re definitely not going to want that. They’re not going to want an ex-CIA officer up there pointing out their, the way they weakened this country. They’re just not going to want that, but we’re going to fight so that we can get on that stage. And there’s some other alternative ideas out there I’ve heard. I don’t know much about them quite yet, but…
HH: And do you have language skills other than Portuguese, Evan?
EM: I used to have Arabic skills. It’s so rusty now that I don’t claim it, Hugh, but certainly, early on, I studied Arabic at Brigham Young University, and studied it for a while in the region in the Middle East, and then used it as I engaged directly with al Qaeda operatives who were working secretly for us, and used it in that context, too.
HH: Can you speak any Spanish at all?
EM: Well you know, Portuguese is so similar to Spanish, this is the thing. I can understand a lot of Spanish. I can speak Portuguese back, and sometimes, that’s enough, but no, I don’t speak Spanish, unfortunately.
HH: And ten seconds, do you want to build a wall?
EM: I want to secure the border, and I want to do that however we need to get it done. A wall will be necessary in certain places. We just need to secure the border.
HH: Evan McMullin, I look forward to talking to you again as the campaign progresses. www.evanmcmullin.com, at Twitter, @Evan_McMullin. Stay tuned, America.
End of interview.