Trump’s Pick for Spy Chief Collins Says He’s Out of Running

Justin Sink and Billy House

(Bloomberg) -- President Donald Trump’s potential nominee for director of national intelligence, Representative Doug Collins, said he would turn down the position to focus on the Georgia senate race.

“This is not a job that interests me; at this time, it’s not one that I would accept, because I’m running a Senate race down here in Georgia,” Collins said in an interview with Fox Business on Friday.

Trump made the announcement during a flight to Las Vegas after a rally in Colorado Springs 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 have simplified a Senate race in Georgia, where the congressman has challenged Senator Kelly Loeffler.

Republicans fear that an extended primary battle could hand the race to the Democrats, and perhaps endanger their majority in the Senate.

Earlier this week, Trump said he’d appoint Ric Grenell, the U.S. ambassador to Germany, to be the next acting director of national intelligence.

Grenell is to replace Joseph Maguire, a one-time Navy SEAL whom Trump appointed as DNI after the resignation last year 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.

Georgia’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, chose Loeffler in December to temporarily fill the seat of Senator Johnny Isakson, who was retiring, although Trump had urged him to pick Collins.

Loeffler owns the WNBA’s Atlanta team and is married to Jeffrey Sprecher, the chief executive officer of Intercontinental Exchange, the parent firm 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.

Collins said Friday that he would decline even though it was “humbling” and “amazing” that Trump mentioned him as a possible candidate for the post.

(Updates with Collins quote in second paragraph.)

--With assistance from Josh Wingrove.

To contact the reporters on this story: Justin Sink in Washington at jsink1@bloomberg.net;Billy House in Washington at bhouse5@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kevin Whitelaw at kwhitelaw@bloomberg.net, Elizabeth Wasserman

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