Evan McMullin on his independent presidential bid

Former CIA counterterrorism officer and former chief policy director for the House Republican Conference takes Center Seat on 'Special Report'


This is a rush transcript from "Special Report with Bret Baier," August 10, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

BRET BAIER, ANCHOR: Welcome to Center Seat. We want to bring in our panel and our guest, Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin. He's a former CIA counterterrorism officer. Until recently he was chief policy director for the House Republican conference. And now here with the panel on Center Seat, thanks for being here.


BAIER: All right, first question is one we get a lot on Twitter, which was, why are you doing this? And Josco put a more fine point on it, saying "What do you really think you're accomplishing besides helping elect Hillary Clinton? Are you a Hillary Clinton supporter?"

MCMULLIN: Well, certainly not. I'm the furthest thing from it. What I would say is Donald Trump is already losing this election badly. When I entered the race six days ago, he was 10 points down on a national level. State polls in critical states over the last couple of days has shown that he's even further down. Donald Trump has no chance of winning election. He's alienated too wide a swath of the American population. He continues to put his foot in his mouth. He will not win. He's weak. I think he's melting down, his campaign is melting down. He has no chance of winning. He's ensuring that Hillary Clinton is elected our next president.

BAIER: All right, but paint the picture of how you have a chance of winning.

MCMULLIN: There are many ways we can win. One way is through the House. I think it's unlikely we'll reach 270 giving the late stage that we're entering. And we can talk more about why it is that we've done that.

BAIER: It's 270 electoral votes.

MCMULLIN: That's exactly right. But if we prevent both Hillary and Donald Trump from reaching that threshold as well, we can take it to the House. That's one possibility.

The other thing is I don't know that Trump is going to make it through. I think he is in the middle of a serious meltdown right now as is his entire campaign. I don't know if he's going to make it. And I don't know how long RNC support lasts and under what terms, but he's very fragile now.

BAIER: You'll get on the ballots, you're convinced?

MCMULLIN: We're going to be on many, many ballots. Just a few days on, we got on Colorado, just today we announced Utah. The Independence party of Minnesota has nominated me and they will be helping us on the ballot there. That's an important one. And many others. They'll just keep coming. We're going to be fighting and scrapping and clawing and getting on as many as we can.

BAIER: Chuck?

CHARLES LANE, THE WASHINGTON POST: Let's start with a question that could differentiate you from the two major party candidates, trade. They're both against the Transpacific Partnership. Admittedly, Hillary used to be for it. Where do you stand on that one?

MCMULLIN: I'm for it. I think we need to trade as 95 percent of the world's consumers are outside our boarders. We need access to them. Right now as it is we are limited in so many ways in so many countries, our companies are. You know, we've got to get to yes on this.

I know there are members of Congress who have some concerns, and I think President Obama needs to work with them to resolve those so that we can get to yes. But we've got to get to yes. On trade, I'll just mention that there are people who are genuinely suffering as a result of displaced industries and jobs. Automation is another part of that, it's not only trade. We do need to hear their concerns. We do need to help them transition more. I believe that. And I think that's a message that conservatives need to promote more. But we can't stop trading and broadening our trade opportunities. We have to do that. It's for good for our country.

BAIER: Mercedes?

MERCEDES SCHLAPP, THE WASHINGTON TIMES: Immigration policy very important in this election, especially for national security. MCMULLIN: Yes. SCHLAPP: Let me ask, you're more in line with Hillary Clinton and comprehensive immigration reform, more executive order, or more in line with Donald Trump in securing our boarders?

MCMULLIN: Let me tell you exactly what I think about it. I think we need to secure our border first and foremost. It's a basic part of being a country. It's a basic piece of national security. We must do that.

As far as a wall is concerned, the experts actually say that in some places a wall is necessary, in other places a double wall is necessary, and in other places that a wall wouldn't help. So I'm for whatever it takes to secure our border with Mexico. We've got to do it. I'm for then enforcing our laws. And also I'm not for deporting 11 million people. I think it's ridiculous. It would cause so much trouble economically and in other ways. It's a ridiculous idea. I oppose that. I think what we need to do is for those who are here illegally but not criminals and who want to stay, there should be a path towards a legal presence here in the United States.

SCHLAPP: What about the Syrian refugees?

MCMULLIN: What about them? SCHLAPP: What would you position be on letting them in or not letting them in?

MCMULLIN: I spent over 10 years in the Central Intelligence Agency, serving overseas, serving in the Middle East. And let me tell you, if you're a terrorist and you want to come to the United States, the worst possible way to do it is as a refugee. You'll go through a year and a half to two years of vetting. If you want to come to the United States and you're a terrorist you're much better just coming through on the visa waiver program from Europe or just walking across the border in Mexico.

So I think there's a lot of hysteria and unjustified hysteria around the refugee situation, and I think we need to be more careful and thoughtful and accurate with the way we talk about that issue, because it has implications for a variety of other interests that we have overseas. BAIER: George?

GEORGE WILL, SYNDICATED COLUMNIST: The American military says they have taken off the battlefield 45,000 or so ISIS fighters since the coalition airstrikes began. The territory of the caliphate is shrinking. What is wrong with their record and how would you improve upon it with or without American troops?

MCMULLIN: That's a great question. The problem is the pace of what we've been doing. President Obama has articulated a containment strategy that has this slow road towards defeating ISIS. The problem is that when you allow ISIS or any other Islamist terrorist organization to have a safe haven the size of the one that ISIS has, you buy them time to plot and plan the kinds of attacks that have happened in Europe and the United States and elsewhere over the last year.

So the pace needs to pick up. This isn't something that we can sort of get around to casually, and that's objection with what President Obama is doing. WILL: Can the caliphate be destroyed? MCMULLIN: Absolutely, absolutely. WILL: Without American ground forces? MCMULLIN: I don't think we should take anything off the table, but there are a lot of great options before we, I mean, it's all terrible, but there are a lot of better options for us to turn to before we put traditional troops on the ground. I think we need to use CIA operations. We need to use our special forces. I have been there, done that. We are very good at this. We need to train indigenous troops and indigenous forces. There are countries in the region who have volunteered to put up their own troops. We need to exhaust some of these things before we go ahead and put traditional troops on the ground. I don't think it's necessary. I think we can defeat ISIS through other means through some of these that I have described and others.

BAIER: What about Gitmo? What do you think should happen to the remaining detainees at Guantanamo Bay?

MCMULLIN: I don't think Gitmo should be closed. I think these are enemy combatants and they deserve to stay where they are until hostilities are complete.

BAIER: So you don't buy the whole argument that Gitmo is a PR disaster used by terrorist against the U.S.?

MCMULLIN: I think we need to push back on that. These are people who want to kill Americans in mass. I have dealt with these people face to face. They are intelligent, many of them. They are well-traveled. They are well-studied. These are very motivated people who eat, drink, and sleep destroying America. The idea that they shouldn't be locked up and held -- and by the way some of them -- I was even told when I was with the CIA by some of these people that they would much rather go to Gitmo than be in a variety of other prisons around the world, especially from the regions in which they come.

So, look, we need to put ourselves on a war footing here, remind ourselves that that's what we are involved in, and absolutely as we round up enemy combatants around round them up off the battlefield, they need to be held somewhere, and Gitmo is a fine place.

BAIER: More with Independent candidate Evan McMullin on Center Seat after a quick break.


BAIER: And we're back with our panel, and in Center Seat, Independent presidential candidate Evan McMullin. A lot of people tweeting in, some saying and noting you went to BYU. You are Mormon. You obviously would play well in Utah. And they say you are trying to throw Utah the other way.

MCMULLIN: We're trying to win Utah. Let's make that clear. And we're trying to win in this election. That is our goal. Again, Donald Trump is a terrible candidate. He is alienating.

BAIER: What about Hillary Clinton? Is she a terrible candidate?

MCMULLIN: She is too. She is absolutely dangerous. She is a person who thinks she is unaccountable to the American people. She's absolutely unacceptable and unfit for office, especially at a time when 82 percent of Americans believe that the country is on the wrong track. We need -- I mean, we need something new. I believe it's time for a new generation of leadership in this country.

BAIER: All right, Tim Moriarty on Twitter says, "What is your plan on tax reform?"

MCMULLIN: Well, I think we need to flatten it out. I think there need to be less brackets, first of all. I support the House plan, which is three tax rates, a simplified plan that you can fill out on a card the size of a postcard. I think there are a lot of plans coming from the House and coming from Paul Ryan and the committee chairman and the members. And I support those. So as president, I would look to simplify the tax code in that way.

BAIER: George?

WILL: Social conservatives are particularly unhappy with the choice they have this year.

MCMULLIN: Of course they are.

WILL: But, they have looked at your website and are not encouraged. You say that as a Mormon you believe marriage is between a man and a woman.


WILL: But you say the court has spoken. You respect the court's opinion, and we should move on. Does that not also apply Roe v. Wade which has been the law of the land for 43 years? And would you in appointing judges appoint judges who you think or ask would overturn Roe v. Wade?

MCMULLIN: Yes. It's a good question and a fair question. But I see the issues differently. On the matter -- on the issue of life, it's life. So I actually would pursue appointment, court appointments that would overturn Roe v. Wade. So that's my view. But I do believe on the issue of gay marriage that the American people have a certain positioning. The court has spoken. And, again, that's not a matter of life. So I respect the decision and I do think it's time to move on. But, on a matter of life, I remain committed to overturning Roe v. Wade.

SCHLAPP: We are seeing the violence in Milwaukee, obviously the tension between law enforcement and the African-American community. How would you, as president, handle race relations in America?

MCMULLIN: Well, first of all, I think as a white person, I think that -- I think it's time for us to acknowledge that African-Americans do actually face some challenges in this country that are unique to them, and minorities in general. I think we need to do that. That would be my first step. That would be my first message to them. I would do far more outreach than maybe others would, certainly more than Donald Trump would. And I think that has a big effect. The tone of a president impacts the attitudes of a country.

And that's why -- and Hillary does plenty to divide our country, too. This idea of a strong centralized government that's pushing down solutions to the rest of the country from Washington divides us. But, in terms of Donald Trump, he has divided us along racial lines, along religious lines. He has even as a candidate --

SCHLAPP: What is your solution?

MCMULLIN: My solution would be to change the tone, first of all. I think Donald Trump's' tone is unacceptable. He is doing enormous damage to this country and it has large implications for our prosperity and security.

BAIER: Chuck?

LANE: I'm going to ask you about your background --


LANE: -- which is obviously admirable that you worked in the agency overseas. But it creates a problem for voters because your entire career is secret. You can't talk about it. How are you going to overcome that? And what are we entitled to know what you have been doing with your life all this time?

MCMULLIN: Certain things are secret, who exactly are the names of people who, for example, decided to betray Al Qaeda in order to work with us. But there is actually a lot that could be understood. My role was not -- what I did is actually a well-known role. I was a case officer, otherwise known as an operations officer. My role was to go out and convince Al Qaeda operatives to instead work with us as well as to convince people and officials in foreign governments to work on behalf of the U.S. government secretly.

There is a lot that is known and there is actually a lot that I can explain that isn't secret. But I would say this -- the country has entrusted me with some of its most sensitive information and asked me to do some of its most difficult tasks. I have answered that and sacrificed much to do it.

BAIER: What's not secret is the show ends at 7:00.


BAIER: Thank you for the time.

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