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Trump endorses Jeff Van Drew, Democrat who switched to Republican Party

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Pelosi weighs choice of impeachment managers 00:57

Washington — The day after he became the third president in history to be impeached, President Trump welcomed Congressman Jeff Van Drew to the White House to celebrate the freshman lawmaker's decision to switch to the Republican Party and offer his endorsement. The meeting and impromptu photo op with reporters notably occurred after Van Drew voted against both articles of impeachment — as a Democrat.

"I'm endorsing him, okay? We are endorsing him," President Trump told reporters Thursday.

Vice President Mike Pence announced Van Drew's formal switch to the GOP, sitting alongside the president and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy in the Oval Office.

"This is just a better fit for me," Van Drew said, explaining the move. Aside from impeachment, Van Drew has voted in line with Mr. Trump's positions 10% of the time, according to FiveThirtyEight.

"Your district will be as grateful as we are," Pence assured Van Drew. McCarthy suggested that Van Drew may be joined by other concerned Democrats.

"We only need 18 more to be the majority, and I think we will do that very soon," McCarthy said.

Mr. Trump was impeached on two articles on Wednesday: abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Van Drew and Minnesota Congressman Collin Peterson — who is remaining a Democrat — voted against both articles, and were joined by freshman Democrat Jared Golden, of Maine, in voting against the second.

Van Drew was one of over 40 Democrats who flipped Republican seats in the 2018 election, securing the Democratic House majority. Van Drew's New Jersey district supported Mr. Trump in 2016, and many Democrats have accused him of making a political calculation to switch parties to aid his re-election efforts.

Republicans have touted Van Drew's "no" vote and defection as evidence that impeachment was unpopular even among Democrats. McCarthy told reporters Thursday "we are excited to have Jeff Van Drew," adding that he had never heard of a member of the majority party switching to the minority party.

Van Drew's impending departure from the Democratic Party also spurred a shakeup in his staff, as several of his congressional employees resigned in protest.

"Congressman Van Drew's decision to join the ranks of the Republican Party led by Donald Trump does not align with the values we brought to this job when we joined his office," the former employees wrote to chief of staff Allison Murphy. In a release, one of the ex-staffers said Van Drew informed them of his plans to become a Republican on Saturday.

"Trump Republicans have sided with special interests over the needs of working people," the letter continued. "Worse, they continue to aid and abet Trump as he shreds the Constitution and tears the country apart. They have refused to grapple with how the President of the United States has jeopardized our national security for his own political advantage."

So far, Van Drew will face three other candidates in the Republican primary for the seat. There are now three Democrats who have declared their candidacy, too. 

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