Democratic officials said Saturday that Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey, a vocally anti-impeachment Democrat, will join the Republican Party in the coming days following a Friday meeting with President Donald Trump — a move that would put a political chill on the Democrats’ expected vote to impeach Trump next week.
Two Democratic officials familiar with Van Drew's discussions in recent days said they believe he has decided to switch parties. The White House meeting was confirmed by a Trump administration official and one of the Democratic officials.
Van Drew, his chief of staff and communications director did not respond to requests for comment Saturday.
Van Drew, who won a previously Republican seat in 2018, has been a critical voice opposing impeachment inside the Democratic ranks, saying that the process is too divisive and comes too close to the 2020 presidential election. A member of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition, Van Drew has positioned himself at the rightmost flank of his party.
Van Drew and Rep. Collin Peterson, a veteran Minnesota Democrat who represents a much more conservative district than Van Drew's, were the only two Democrats to vote against a House resolution in October formalizing the impeachment inquiry.
Van Drew's decision to oppose impeachment badly alienated Democratic voters in his district, sparking a primary challege that badly threatened his prospects for re-election.
A polling memo obtained by The Washington Post, citing results of a Dec. 7-10 survey commissioned by Van Drew's campaign of likely Democratic voters in his district, found that only 24 percent believed that he should be re-elected, with 58 percent wanting another Democrat nominated for the seat.
Speculation about a potential party switch has swirled for days on Capitol Hill and inside New Jersey political circles. Van Drew on Tuesday denied that he was switching parties, as he maintained that he would vote against impeachment.
"I'm not changing anything - just doing my job," he said in a brief interview. "I'm still a Democrat, right here."
Asked if Republicans had approached him about a party switch, he said, "I'm not talking about other people and what they're doing."