WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump said that he was considering Rep. Doug Collins, a Gainesville Republican and ally, as his formal nominee for director of national intelligence.
Trump made the announcement during a flight to Las Vegas after a rally in Colorado Springs, Colo., on Thursday night. The president has been on a tour of Western U.S. states for much of this week.
Naming Collins to the post could simplify a Senate race in Georgia, where the congressman has challenged Sen. Kelly Loeffler. Gov. Brian Kemp chose Loeffler in December to temporarily fill the seat of Sen. Johnny Isakson, who was retiring, although Trump had urged him to pick Collins.
Republicans had feared that an extended battle could hand the race to the Democrats and perhaps endanger their majority in the Senate.
Collins said in an appearance on Fox Business Friday morning that the news is "humbling," but he does not want the position.
"I know the problems in our intelligence community, but this is not a job that interests me," Collins said. "At this time, it's not one I would accept, because I'm running a Senate race down here in Georgia. Everybody knows I'm a supporter of the president. They know how much I have supported this president through this sham impeachment and everything else. But I'm running against a senator who is just newly appointed, who decided to support the president three weeks before she got the appointment."
Collins said he hopes to focus on the Senate race "because we have a candidate down here that could actually put this seat in jeopardy."
Loeffler owns the WNBA's Atlanta team and is married to Jeffrey Sprecher, the chief executive officer of Intercontinental Exchange, the parent company of the New York Stock Exchange. She has pledged $20 million of her own fortune for her campaign.
Collins, a lawyer and chaplain in the Air Force Reserve, helped lead the opposition to House Democrats' impeachment of Trump as the top Republican on the Judiciary Committee. From that role, he has become well-known fixture on Fox News and other conservative outlets.
He announced in January that he'd challenge Loeffler in November's election for the last two years of the term Isakson relinquished because of health concerns.
Earlier this week, Trump said he'd appoint Richard Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, to be the next acting director of national intelligence.
Grenell is to replace Joseph Maguire, a former Navy SEAL whom Trump appointed as DNI after the resignation last year of Dan Coats, a former senator from Indiana. Maguire has held the job in an acting capacity and Trump was required by law to either replace him or ask the Senate to confirm him in the position by next month.
According to The New York Times, Trump angrily confronted Maguire when he found out that intelligence officials had told a House briefing that Russia was intruding in this year's election on the side of the president.