SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Conservative presidential candidate Evan McMullin created a group Wednesday that he hopes will expand his ability to serve as a watchdog over President Donald Trump and give a voice to people who want to hold Trump accountable.
McMullin announced the launch of the "Stand Up Republic " group, a nonpartisan organization that he said will provide a framework for a movement he started when he mounted an independent run for president last year as a conservative alternative to Trump.
McMullin ran as an independent conservative, touting himself as alternative to voters fed up with Trump. His best finish was in Utah, where he finished third by getting 21.5 percent of the vote.
The former CIA agent was an outspoken Trump critic during the campaign and continues to criticize him. He said his group will ensure Trump's administration upholds the principles of democracy and tells the truth.
"We have an administration that literally engages purposefully in misrepresenting the truth for a variety of reasons that are extremely dangerous," McMullin said. "Donald Trump clearly tries to inflate his political performance. Authoritarians do that commonly."
The Trump administration did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment sent to the presidential communications office.
McMullin, who has roots in Utah and Washington state but lives in Washington D.C., said he has heard from more liberal-minded people who want to join his cause. The group will be active on social media and provide a way to fundraise and plan events for what McMullin called a growing grassroots movement.
His role in a group he started along with his running mate, Republican strategist Mindy Finn, could be a precursor to a run for elected office in Utah.
McMullin said he's still considering a run for U.S. Senate or House in 2018 but will make a decision later. Longtime Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, a Republican, said four years ago that his current term will be his last but that he is leaving open the possibility of seeking another six-year term.
McMullin built up enough credibility during his presidential run that he could succeed with the new group by attracting people who are "center-left and center-right," said Boyd Matheson, a veteran Utah Republican strategist who runs the conservative Sutherland Institute.
But the group will have to be careful not to focus solely on being anti-Trump, Matheson said.
"One of the things that made Evan very popular and attributed to his success in Utah was that he wasn't just against something, he was for something," he said.