Republican U.S. lawmaker Collins says he’s focused on Senate run, not intelligence post


WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Representative Doug Collins on Friday said he still plans to run for the U.S. Senate, despite President Donald Trump’s remarks that he was a leading candidate to head the nation’s intelligence agencies.

Collins, in an interview on Fox Business Network, said he was humbled that Trump was considering him for the post of permanent director of national intelligence but that he was focused on his Senate campaign.

“I know the problems of our intelligence community, but this is not a job that is of interest to me. At this time, it’s not one that I would accept,” the Georgia Republican said. “I’m sure the president will pick somebody appropriate for that job.”

Trump told reporters on Thursday that Collins was a top candidate after he abruptly dismissed acting Director of National Intelligence Joseph Maguire this week and replaced him with Richard Grenell, a controversial Trump loyalist who is also serving as the U.S. ambassador to Germany.

U.S. intelligence officials last week told members of the House intelligence committee in a classified briefing that Russia was interfering in the 2020 U.S. presidential campaign ahead of November’s election, according to a person familiar with the discussion.

Russia, which has denied the U.S. intelligence community assessment that it meddled in the 2016 election, called the allegations false on Friday.

Following the briefing, Trump rebuked Maguire for allowing his staff to appear before the lawmakers, including Democratic panel chairman Adam Schiff, who led the House impeachment inquiry into the president, the New York Times reported Thursday, quoting five people familiar with the matter.

Grenell’s appointment drew sharp rebukes from Democrats and other critics who cited his lack of intelligence experience.

Politico also reported that a former aide to Republican U.S. Representative Devin Nunes who later served in the National Security Council, Kash Patel, would serve as a senior adviser to Grenell.

Former Republican Senator Dan Coats was Trump’s last full-time director of national intelligence, but he resigned in July 2019 after differences with the president over the role Russia played in the 2016 election became public.

Joseph Maguire, a career intelligence officer, had served in an acting capacity since then. His deputy, Andrew Hallman, is also leaving the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, according to media reports.

Collins is seeking to challenge fellow Republican Kelly Loeffler, who was tapped for the Senate seat in December.

Reporting by Susan Heavey; Editing by Bernadette Baum