Update: Van Drew questioned ABC’s Katherine Faulders on whether he said “undying support,” saying “I don’t think it was ‘undying.’ I usually don’t speak that way.”
Just asked Van Drew about this. “I don’t know if I said..did I say undying? I don’t think it was undying. I usually don’t speak that way. I said I think you have my support. And he does.” (Note: he definitely said Trump has his “undying support.”) Tape —> https://t.co/TnDSX5GYo1
— Katherine Faulders (@KFaulders) December 19, 2019
Representative Jeff Van Drew confirmed his switch to the Republican party in a meeting with the president in the Oval Office on Thursday, telling Trump he has his “undying support” a mere nine days after declaring “I’m still a Democrat, right here.”
“Very big announcement . . . Jeff will be joining the Republican Party,” Trump announced, before giving the New Jersey Congressman his endorsement. The two men were joined in the meeting by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) and Vice President Pence, who also gave Van Drew their support.
“Republicans are a very big tent. We’re excited to have Jeff Van Drew. We welcome anybody that believes this new Democrat socialist party has left them behind,” McCarthy said.
White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, and Ivanka Trump were also in attendance.
“I believe that this is just a better fit for me,” Van Drew explained. “This is who I am.” The longtime Democratic state senator added that he viewed himself as a moderate, referencing Maine Senator Susan Collins.
“There are moderate Republicans, and there are a few — not too many — left. I guess Collins is one, I’m one,” he said.
News broke December 13 that Van Drew, who flipped a district last year that Trump carried by five points in 2016, planned to switch parties over impeachment after meeting with Trump. After being one of two Democrats to oppose formalizing impeachment in October, Van Drew’s polling numbers among Democrats tanked, with reportedly 71 percent of primary voters less likely to support his re-election if he opposed Trump’s impeachment.
Van Drew refused to confirm the switch in the buildup to the House vote on impeachment and voted “nay” on impeachment in the Wednesday vote, but as a Democrat.
Democrats slammed Van Drew for the switch after unsuccessfully convincing him to remain in the caucus, with New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy calling Van Drew’s actions “cynical and desperate.”
“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,” Murphy said Saturday in a statement.
Following Van Drew’s Thursday meeting with Trump, New Jersey Democratic Senator Bob Menendez told CNN’s Manu Raju that the switch was “not an act of a profile in courage.”