WASHINGTON - Amid a new flap over Russian election interference, President Donald Trump says he is planning to appoint a new permanent director of national intelligence - though one top candidate says he doesn't want the job.
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., an outspoken defender of Trump during impeachment, told Fox Business Network on Friday he didn't want the job after Trump floated his name for the role on Thursday.
Collins, who is running for Senate, said the post "is not a job that's of interest to me, and it's not one that I'd accept."
Trump on Thursday expressed his desire to hire a permanent director of national intelligence - just one day after he named an acting director, Germany ambassador Richard Grenell.
The new plan also emerged just hours after news that U.S. intelligence officials had warned lawmakers that Russia is again planning to interfere in the presidential election - possibly to help Trump win reelection. The position of director of national intelligence has gone without a permanent, Senate-confirmed appointee for six months.
That briefing caused Trump to reprimand Joseph Maguire, the former acting director of national intelligence replaced by Grenell. Two administration officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss personnel matters, said Trump was mad because he was unaware Maguire's staff had briefed Congress on the new Russia plot. They also said Trump had been planning to replace Maguire for awhile.
Critics have used the hearing to attack Trump, accusing the president of seeking to suppress information about Russian efforts to help him politically. They've also gone after Grenell for his lack of experience in the intelligence community.
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"We count on the intelligence community to inform Congress of any threat of foreign interference in our elections," tweeted Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. "If reports are true and the President is interfering with that, he is again jeopardizing our efforts to stop foreign meddling."
Schiff, a House prosecutor during impeachment, has said the president is constantly trying to downplay evidence that Russia wanted to help him win the election in 2016.
Trump said he simply wants new leadership in U.S. intelligence. The director of national intelligence is a cabinet-level position that coordinates the activities of the CIA and other U.S. spy agencies.
In a Thursday tweet, Trump said: "Thank you to our great US Ambassador to Germany, @RichardGrenell, for stepping in to serve as acting DNI. I will be nominating a terrific candidate for the job very soon. Stay tuned!"
Thank you to our great US Ambassador to Germany, @RichardGrenell, for stepping in to serve as acting DNI. I will be nominating a terrific candidate for the job very soon. Stay tuned!
- Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 21, 2020
In Georgia, Collins is mounting a Republican primary challenge to incumbent Sen. Kelly Loeffler. That is an intra-party battle that Republicans would like to avoid, but now looks inevitable given Collins' apparent refusal to take the DNI job.
Collins sought the Senate seat last year, but Georgia's Republican governor opted to appoint Loeffler to replace the retired Sen. Johnny Isakson.
The decision by Collins to now challenge Loeffler in a primary brought him criticism from party leaders, including members of the National Republican Senatorial Committee.
"The shortsightedness in this decision is stunning," NRSC Director Kevin McLaughlin said, adding that Collins' "selfishness" would hurt Loeffler and Sen. David Perdue, both Republicans, and President Donald Trump, who will also be on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Doug Collins rejects Trump's director of national intelligence job