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"With the stakes so high for our nation and at this late stage in the process, I can no longer stand on the sidelines," McMullin said in a statement. "Our country needs leaders who are in it for the right reasons and who actually understand what makes this country the greatest on earth. Leaders who will unite us and guide us to a prosperous, secure future, beyond the dysfunction of a broken political system."
He took aim at both major-party presidential nominees.
"Hillary Clinton is a corrupt career politician who has recklessly handled classified information in an attempt to avoid accountability and put American lives at risk, including those of my former colleagues," he said. "She fails the basic tests of judgment and ethics any candidate for president must meet."
As for Donald Trump, he "appeals to the worst fears of Americans at a time we need unity, not division," McMullin said. "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."
People working on McMullin's bid resigned from Better for America — a 501(c)(4) organization that may not officially endorse or back any candidate — in order to push his candidacy. The group has been working for months to select a candidate and get on ballots throughout the country. In some states, like Texas, they will likely have to sue to get on the ballot. A 501(c)(4) group is an issue-based nonprofit that may raise unlimited funds and does not have to disclose its donors.
"Just as the American Revolution required men and women devoted to liberty and freedom to stand up and be counted, this moment calls a new generation to the same sacred task." McMullin said in the statement. "With that in mind, I have decided to pursue the cause of American renewal and the presidency of the United States of America."
It's an extreme uphill climb, but his supporters are confident that McMullin, 40, can act as a disrupter and peel off some red states in a race in which some Republicans are still resistant to Trump.
McMullin’s candidacy, backed by some Republicans, shows how the never-Trump movement is still working to upend him even with less than three months left until the general election. McMullin may be a long shot but will have an organization behind him, if unofficially.
McMullin, who resigned this morning as the chief policy director of the House Republican conference, was planning to incorporate an election committee today, get a bank account for it and start raising and spending money in a manner consistent with all applicable Federal Election Commission and Internal Revenue Service requirements, according to the operatives launching his campaign. They plan to file FEC candidacy forms by Aug. 15, they said.
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. The group has been partly funded by John Kingston, a Boston conservative donor who bundled for Mitt Romney.
McMullin was born in Provo, Utah, and earned a bachelor’s degree in international law and diplomacy from Brigham Young University and a master’s in business administration from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.
He served as a Mormon missionary in Brazil and as a volunteer refugee resettlement officer in Amman, Jordan, on behalf of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. On Sept. 11, 2001, he was in training at CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. He completed his training and volunteered for overseas service in the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia, spearheading counterterrorism and intelligence operations in some of the most dangerous nations, according to the group.
After he left the CIA in 2011, McMullin went to work for Goldman Sachs in the San Francisco Bay Area and in 2013 became a senior adviser on national security issues for the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.