Congressman Doug Collins told Fox News this morning he would not accept an offer to be the next Director of National Intelligence.
President Donald Trump said late Thursday he could make U.S. Rep. Doug Collins his permanent director of national intelligence, a move that could spare Republicans of a nasty intraparty fight against U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler.
The president told reporters on Air Force One that he is considering appointing the Gainesville Republican, one of his most visible defenders in Congress, for the coveted position.
It came days after Trump hinted he could intervene in the bitter race between Collins and Loeffler, a wealthy financial executive who Gov. Brian Kemp selected for the seat despite lobbying by Trump and some of his allies who favored the congressman.
“I know, Kelly, that you’re going to end up liking him a lot,” Trump said on Feb. 6 of Collins, adding that “something’s going to happen that’s going to be very good. I don’t know; I haven’t figured it out yet.”
The president’s remarks triggered immediate talk in Georgia GOP circles that Collins could be in line for a prized appointment, though what exactly what that job could be was uncertain.
Collins’ aides could not immediately be reached for comment late Thursday, but earlier this month his camp was dismissive of the idea that he could be knocked out of the race to accept an appointment.
Trump on Wednesday tapped Richard Grenell, a U.S. ambassador to Germany, as acting director of national security, a post that oversees a vast part of the U.S. national security apparatus. Grenell is only expected to fill the post for a short time.
Whoever Trump selects to permanently take the job would require U.S. Senate confirmation, which could set up a divisive debate if Collins is picked.
Republican leaders have searched for ways to diffuse the scathing race between the two, which has forced top national and Georgia GOP leaders to take sides at a time when the party can ill afford a divide.
Since Collins entered the race in January, he has assailed her as an out-of-touch millionaire, a “fake conservative” and a “pretend farmer.” Her allies have fired back, depicting him as a tax-and-spend phony.
The escalating feud has raised GOP concerns that Democrats could win the special election for the seat once held by U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who retired in December because of growing health concerns.
That’s because the race will feature multiple candidates from both parties on the same ballot, with no primaries to filter nominees. That could give Democrats an opening to exploit Republican divisions by unifying behind a candidate.
The decision by Rev. Raphael Warnock to enter the race in January has amplified those fears, as the Democrat has quickly locked up support from state and national figures, including Stacey Abrams and the party’s U.S. Senate campaign arm.
Some Republicans also worry that the GOP feud could spill over to damage U.S. Sen. David Perdue, who is up for a second term in November, as well as Trump’s chances of holding a state he won by 5 percentage points in 2016.
Still, Democrats have their own challenges to work out. The party hasn’t captured a statewide seat in more than a decade, and no Democratic presidential candidate has carried Georgia since Bill Clinton in 1992.
And Warnock has failed to scare off two contenders from his own party who could complicate his chances of scoring an upset victory: Entrepreneur Matt Lieberman and former federal prosecutor Ed Tarver, who announced his campaign earlier Thursday.