President Trump floated the idea of nominating Rep. Doug Collins for the permanent position of Director of National Intelligence, after naming Richard Grenell as the acting official. But, on Friday, Collins shot down that idea, saying that he would rather focus on the upcoming Senate race in Georgia.
However, his decision was not well received by many in the GOP, who believe that Collins’ Senate fight could harm the party and the majority President Trump is set to gain in 2020.
The president made the disclosure to reporters aboard Air Force One on a flight to Las Vegas, Nevada, a day after he selected U.S. Ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell to serve as acting DNI. He said Mr. Collins is one of several candidates he’s considering.
[Grenell would be a huge blessing as a permanent replacement, and his nomination is not off the table.]
But Mr. Collins said on Fox Business that wouldn’t accept the nomination because he’s running for the Senate.
“This is not a job that’s of interest to me, and at this time it’s not one that I’d accept,” Mr. Collins said.
The DNI oversees the 17 agencies of the U.S. intelligence community. Joseph Maguire has served in an acting role since last year, when Dan Coats resigned.
Mr. Maguire was ousted after one of his senior aides briefed lawmakers last week that Russia is trying to influence the 2020 election in favor of Mr. Trump, a move that reportedly blindsided the furious president.
The DNI post requires Senate confirmation, and Mr. Collins gained prominence as one of the president’s prime defenders during the impeachment.
Mr. Collins has announced that he is running for the Senate in Georgia against Republican Sen. Kelly Loeffler, who was appointed by Republican Gov. Brian Kemp to replace Sen. Johnny Isakson, who resigned due to health reasons.
The prospect of a hard-fought primary is causing some anxiety in the administration, which needs to hold the seat in a closely divided Senate.
“This shortsighted decision is stunning,” National Republican Senatorial Committee Executive Director Kevin McLaughlin said in a statement at the time. “Doug Collins’ selfishness will hurt David Perdue, Kelly Loeffler, and President Trump. Not to mention the people of Georgia who will stand to bear the burden of it for years to come. All he has done is put two senate seats, multiple house seats, and Georgia’s 16 electoral votes in play.”
Georgia’s special election rules pit all candidates, regardless of party, against each other on the ballot in November. There will be a runoff in January if no candidate secures a majority of votes.
That means Collins isn’t simply running a primary challenge against an incumbent. He would split GOP votes with another popular Republican in his state as Democrats are running in the same race, making a runoff likely and potentially putting a Republican Senate majority on the line.
If Trump were to nominate Collins, the ranking member on the House Judiciary Committee, he would presumably end his Senate run to focus on his new post, solving that problem for Republicans.
Trump’s statement does not mean that he couldn’t also consider Grenell or other candidates for the job. Additionally, it remains to be seen how Senate Republicans would react to a potential Collins nomination since the representative’s main national security and intelligence experience was a short stint on the House Foreign Affairs Committee during his first term in 2012 and 2013.
Many people argue that the SSCI wouldn’t be favorable to anyone who wasn’t willing to cover their complicity in the impeachment process and other actions over the past decade, so it isn’t likely they’d approve Collins, or any outsider.