Great Britain

Jeff Van Drew: Democrat defects to Republicans after opposing Trump impeachment

Donald Trump congratulated congressman Jeff Van Drew in the Oval Office following his announcement that the New Jersey Democrat plans to join the Republican Party.

He was among just three Democrats to vote against the articles of impeachment against the president on Wednesday.

Mr Van Drew said the party switch is a “better fit” and pledged to the president his “undying support”. In return, Mr Trump, as well as Vice President Mike Pence, said they would endorse the congressman in his 2020 campaign.

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He told reporters at the White House that he was pressured by “really progressive” Democrats to support impeachment and was criticised for his proposals to encourage flag flying and add “In God We Trust” to public and private buildings.

Several aides resigned this week as he prepared to announce his switch, writing in a letter that they can “no longer in good conscience continue our service in the Congressman’s employ”.

But it is likely that the murky path to his re-election in 2020 may also have influenced his turn from the Democrats.

Internal polling from the van Drew camp showed that a plurality of respondents wanted someone new in his seat, mirroring similar polls that showed 60 per cent of respondents believed “someone new” should serve his district.

The president won the district in 2016 by a 51-46 vote.

Noting that Mr Van Drew will be joining the current minority party in Congress, Mr Trump said: “It’s not gonna be the minority for long. I have a feeling we’re going to do very well in 2020.”

The New Jersey politician flipped his district seat in 2018 after he defeated Republican candidate Seth Grossman, who lost the party’s support after sharing an article to a white nationalist website that argued black people “are a threat to all who cross their paths”. He also called diversity “a bunch of crap and un-American” and suggested thanking white people for ending slavery.

Mr Van Drew replaced outgoing Republican Frank LoBiondo, who occupied the seat since 1995.

Mr Trump said: “I don’t know how as a Democrat you won in that district.”

He added: “Jeff will be joining the Republican party, and to me it’s a very exciting announcement. It’s a big deal.”

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