Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-N.J., is reportedly planning on switching to the Republican Party due to his opposition to House Democrats' movement toward impeaching President Donald Trump.
Rep. Van Drew reportedly met with Trump in the White House on Friday to receive his blessing for making the switch and is believed to have been encouraged by the president, according to The Washington Post. Van Drew has also reportedly consulted Trump's senior advisers about whether he should time his switch to occur either before or after the House of Representatives has its vote on the two articles of impeachment, which is expected to take place on Wednesday.
Van Drew's decision comes roughly one month after he promised his constituents during a teleconference that "I am absolutely not changing (parties)." When discussing the impeachment inquiry into Trump, Van Drew said that "my thoughts are certainly we have concerns about some of the activities that have taken place in the White House. I understand how people are so concerned about it. I’m also concerned, but also we are tearing the country apart."
Van Drew reiterated his pledge to remain a Democrat during a brief interview with The Post last week, in which he said that "I’m not changing anything — just doing my job. I’m still a Democrat, right here.”
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, blasted Van Drew in a statement on Saturday, arguing that the New Jersey congressman was putting his own political future over the good of the country.
"Betraying our values by siding with Donald Trump is the final straw and made it impossible for him to continue being supported by our party, as grassroots activists, local party leaders in his district, and I have made clear in recent weeks," Murphy said in a statement, according to CNN. "This party switch is cynical and desperate, and I am confident that a Democrat who shares the values and priorities of our Democratic Party will hold this seat."
Van Drew was one of two House Democrats to vote against the articles of impeachment against Trump, with the other being Rep. Collin C. Peterson of Minnesota. Van Drew has incurred considerable controversy within his Democratic base because of his opposition to the Trump impeachment. A survey of likely Democratic voters commissioned by Van Drew's campaign, and obtained by The Post, found that 58 percent of them wanted another Democrat in Van Drew's seat and only 24 percent thought he should be reelected.
This was not the only bad sign for Van Drew. Although Van Drew was able to win the Democratic primary in 2018 because he had the support of southern New Jersey's Democratic Party machine, a report by David Wildstein of the New Jersey Globe earlier this month revealed that that establishment support was weakening.
"Facing growing concerns about his ability to win a Democratic primary next year, Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-Dennis) asked Democratic county chairmen to sign a letter backing him for re-election. The answer for many of them was no, the New Jersey Globe has learned," Wildstein reported. "'Some of us have had enough of Jefferson Van Drew,' one top Democrat told the Globe. 'He’s on his own now.' As a result, the letter never happened, according to six sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity."