Trump Russia Probe (copy)

U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy, R-S.C., walks on Capitol Hill in Washington on Tuesday, July 25, 2017. File/Andrew Harnik/AP 

WASHINGTON — U.S. Rep. Trey Gowdy downplayed speculation Wednesday that he could be the next attorney general, saying he would be willing to take a call from President Donald Trump but still plans to leave national politics.

"I think the capital is not in South Carolina, and I'm heading to South Carolina," said Gowdy, R-Spartanburg, who announced his decision in January to leave Congress.

Several of Gowdy's allies on Capitol Hill, including U.S. Sens. Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham from his home state of South Carolina, have recently suggested he would be a good choice for Trump's next top law enforcement official after Jeff Sessions was forced out last week.

Gowdy said he would at least be willing to hear out the president if he were contacted. The two have still never met or spoken before.

"Anytime a president calls and asks you to talk to him, the answer is 'yes,' " Gowdy said. "It was true of President Obama, it would be true of President Trump."

For most of his final term in office, Gowdy has chaired the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee. That position, as well as his role on the Intelligence Committee, has at times put him in conflict with Trump, such as in July, when he said the president needed to stop suggesting that Russia didn't attempt to interfere in the 2016 election.

After talking to reporters for several minutes Wednesday evening outside the U.S. Capitol, Gowdy was joined by Scott as they were planning to head to dinner together.

Despite Gowdy's reluctance, Scott reiterated that he thinks Gowdy would be perfect for the job.

"If you want someone who's competent, probably overqualified, objective, putting the American people's business first, loyal to the American concept of fairness and equality before the law, working for a blind woman, who else would you want?" Scott said.

"I wish you were there for all my interviews," Gowdy responded.

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As to Graham putting Gowdy's name forward for consideration, the congressman joked that it won't get the senator what he really wants.

"I'm not going to give him one more shot when we play golf next like I did the last time, so it's not going to work," Gowdy said. "Flattery will get him nowhere."

Back home in South Carolina, longtime friends of Gowdy said this week they would be surprised if he were to remain in such a high-profile role given his conscious decision earlier this year to leave political life.

The attorney general gig does, however, fit in more closely with Gowdy's preference for legal work. A University of South Carolina law school graduate, Gowdy spent a decade as the state's 7th Circuit Solicitor before running for Congress in 2010.

When he announced that he would not seek re-election, Gowdy said he is planning to return to the justice system.

Follow Jamie Lovegrove on Twitter @jslovegrove.

Jamie Lovegrove is a political reporter covering the South Carolina statehouse and congressional delegation. He previously covered Texas politics in Washington for The Dallas Morning News and in Austin for the Texas Tribune.