Donald Trump and senior members of his campaign have been "played" by Russian President Vladimir Putin and cannot be trusted with state secrets, according to Evan McMullin, a former CIA counterterrorism officer and independent presidential candidate.
"This is a man who is manipulated by Vladimir Putin. He would never get a security clearance. Never in 100 years would he make it through the first step of getting a security clearance," McMullin told the Washington Examiner on Wednesday.
"This is a man who is not only unsuitable for a security clearance, he is exactly the opposite of somebody who could be trusted with anything sensitive," he said, hours before Trump received his first intelligence briefing from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
"I won't use them, because they've made such bad decisions," Trump later told Fox News, referring to the intelligence he was slated to receive.
McMullin, who spent more than a decade as an undercover agent for the CIA before becoming chief policy director for the House Republican conference, said he was routinely exposed to foreign intelligence and sensitive state secrets during his tenure. It is "truly heartbreaking," he said, to contemplate the GOP presidential nominee and two of his advisers — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn — being exposed to similar information.
"The idea that this man will be receiving briefings on our most sensitive information — it's heartbreaking for me as a patriotic American that that is happening," he said. "Gen. Flynn is another one of these guys with ties to Putin and the Kremlin and it's just a terrible, terrible thing."
He continued, "We simply cannot let somebody who has been so manipulated by Vladimir Putin and so aligned himself with Vladimir Putin to have access to such sensitive information."
But it isn't only Trump who should be prevented from receiving routine intelligence briefings, McMullin charged.
"Her case is different than Donald's, but I agree with Speaker [Paul] Ryan: Clinton has mishandled classified information in such a terrible way that she also wouldn't be able to get a security clearance if she was any other American."
Shortly after FBI Director James Comey said Clinton had been "extremely careless" with her handling of classified material at the State Department, Ryan requested that Director of National Intelligence James Clapper deny the Democratic presidential hopeful access to sensitive information.
Clapper eventually rejected the Wisconsin Republican's appeal, stating that "briefings for the candidates will be provided on an even-handed non-partisan basis."
"She's proven that she is willing to put our most sensitive secrets at risk in order to avoid accountability to the American people," McMullin said of Clinton. "That's just awful. She's willing to put herself first, ahead of the most sensitive, important issues of the country. It's exasperating."
McMullin launched his White House bid only a week ago, and has since billed himself as the most experienced and most knowledgeable candidate when it comes to national security. He told the Examiner that his main focus at the moment is securing ballot access in as many states as possible and then using the grassroots support he has so far received to build a sustainable campaign operation in those states.