Trump tweets support for Rep. Jeff Van Drew amid plans to switch to GOP
President Trump on Sunday praised Rep. Jeff Van Drew, D-N.J., amid speculation that the anti-impeachment Democrat plans to switch to the Republican Party as the House readies for a full vote on impeaching the president.
Van Drew -- who has spent months criticizing fellow Democrats for their push to impeach Trump -- met with Trump on Friday to discuss going across party lines. He is one of only two Democrats who voted against opening an impeachment inquiry into Trump and has remained a fervent voice in opposition to impeaching the president.
"Wow, that would be big," Trump tweeted early Sunday morning of Van Drew's planned party switch. "Always heard Jeff is very smart!"
A source told Fox News that Van Drew may be seeking a Rose Garden ceremony if he were to switch.
The news of Van Drew's possible party flip drew harsh criticism from Democrats, who called it a political move aimed at turning around his flagging approval numbers in New Jersey's 2nd Conngressional District.
New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, called the party switch "cynical and desperate."
"Jeff Van Drew has chosen his political career over our Constitution," Murphy said in a statement Friday night. "Despite knowing full well that the president has abused the powers of his office, Congressman Van Drew is now willing to enable Donald Trump just to try to salvage his own election."
He added: "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."
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“He’s an NRA favorite. He’s passed no meaningful legislation, he’s raised no money and his own polling shows he has no chance in the election,” a senior Democratic source told The Hill. “This has nothing to do with impeachment and everything to do with a politician who hasn’t delivered for his constituents.”
A recent internal poll conducted for the Democrats found that 58 percent of primary voters in his district wanted to nominate another candidate, while only 28 percent said Van Drew should be renominated.
The Washington Post first reported that Trump had personally urged Van Drew to jump ship and that the lawmaker strongly considering it. The New York Times reported that he could make an announcement as soon as next week, just as the House gears up to vote on impeachment.
A spokesperson for Van Drew did not immediately return a request for comment. Two Democratic aides told Fox News that they expected Van Drew to switch parties.
While Van Drew has called President Trump’s conduct in relation to his July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky “unsavory,” he has repeatedly said he did not see evidence that would justify his removal from office. He was one of just two House Democrats to oppose the House’s November vote to set impeachment rules.
In an interview with Fox Business last month, he said he would vote against articles of impeachment unless he hears evidence against President Trump that "rises to the level of treason or a high crime."
He said the "Founding Fathers had vigorous debates of whether they would even allow impeachment in the Constitution," and that he favors allowing voters to decide the matter in next year's election.
"You don't disenfranchise voters, millions upon millions of voters. Voters choose their leaders in America," Van Drew had said.
The Times reported that during conversations between Van Drew and Trump advisers, where the freshman congressman said he was nervous about losing his seat either in a Democratic primary -- due to his opposition to impeachment in a liberal state -- or in a general election. A Democratic aide told Fox News that a recent poll his campaign took showed another Democrat would beat him in a primary race.
The Times reported that while Van Drew has not yet made a final decision, he was serious enough that he discussed what day to make an announcement and whether to do it before the upcoming vote on articles of impeachment.
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The meeting came the same day that the House Judiciary Committee voted to adopt two articles of impeachment in a party-line vote. The article allege abuse of power and obstruction by Trump. Should the House adopt the articles next week, it could trigger a Senate trial in the new year just as 2020 presidential primaries are about to get underway.
"Today is a solemn and sad day," Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., told reporters after the vote. "For the third time in a little over a century and a half, the House Judiciary Committee has voted articles of impeachment against the president -- for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. The House will act expeditiously."
Fox News' Andrew O'Reilly, Marisa Schultz, Sam Dorman and Chad Pergram contributed to this report.