When Evan McMullin arrived at the Four Seasons in Washington, D.C., one afternoon in early April, he sensed right away that he was in enemy territory. After more than a decade in the CIA, he knows how to case a room, and the heightened security outside the building that day suggested to him the presence of someone from Donald Trump’s administration—a White House official, perhaps, or a member of the first family. As he passed through the lobby, a gaggle of Republican staffer types glared at him. By the time he joined me at a table in the hotel’s restaurant, where he noticed the conservative radio host and Trump enthusiast Laura Ingraham seated nearby, he appeared exhausted. He ordered a virgin mojito—something to help the teetotaling Mormon take the edge off—and sighed.
“These people,” he muttered.
“These people,” I reminded him helpfully, “run Washington now.”
He slumped slightly, and sighed again. “You’re right about that.”
McMullin, who typically affects the eager manner of an Eagle Scout leading his troop in the Pledge of Allegiance, could be forgiven a moment of bitterness. Ever since he quit his job as a GOP policy wonk on Capitol Hill last year to launch a long-shot presidential bid under the Never Trump banner, he has been locked in near-daily battle with Trump and his supporters. On any given day, he can be found on CNN rallying viewers to resist the president’s attacks on “our system of government,” or in The New York Times warning of America’s possible descent into despotism, or on HBO’s Real Time With Bill Maher detailing the dangers of the commander in chief’s “bewildering” foreign policy. The ongoing media blitz has not escaped the attention of Trump himself, who has mockingly called McMullin “McMuffin.”