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How Trump Convinced A Democrat To Switch Parties; GOP Tried To Flip Second Democrat
Getty Images: Alex Wong / Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call

President Donald Trump and Republican Party reportedly engaged in a six-week campaign to convince Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-NJ) to leave the Democratic Party and to become a Republican and also attempted to get a second Democrat to leave the party.

After Van Drew voted against the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry in October, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a California Republican, approached Van Drew and told him that Trump wanted him to become a Republican.

“But McCarthy also had a threat for Van Drew — Republicans ‘were going to beat you anyway,’ he warned,” Politico reported. “Trump won Van Drew’s South Jersey district by nearly 5 points in 2016, and GOP leaders were already heavily targeting the seat next year.”

The six-week campaign, which was described by Politico as a “stealth effort,” reportedly involved discussions with former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, who is from Van Drew’s district.

“McCarthy kept on reaching out to Van Drew, as did other House Republicans. Van Drew and Trump exchanged several phone calls in the past couple of weeks, brokered in part by McCarthy,” Politico continued. “Trump and McCarthy argued that Van Drew would be better off in the GOP. And they also noted that Van Drew’s old New Jersey state Senate seat, which overlaps with his congressional district, had been carried by Republicans in recent Garden State elections.”

Last week, Van Drew and his chief of staff, Allison Murphy requested an in-person meeting with Trump, which was quickly arranged at the Oval Office.

“Van Drew told Trump he’d make the switch,” Politico added. “Van Drew then went back to Capitol Hill and informed his staff of the decision, but asked them to keep it quiet until the following week.”

Politico’s report also revealed that McCarthy and other Republicans attempted to get Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) to switch parties but were unsuccessful in their efforts.

News broke on Saturday that Van Drew was switching parties when The Washington Post reported on the meeting between Trump and Van Drew.

“Van Drew, who won a previously Republican seat in 2018, has been a critical voice opposing impeachment inside the Democratic ranks, saying the process is too divisive and comes too close to the 2020 presidential election to be worth pursuing,” The Post reported. “A member of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition, Van Drew has positioned himself at the rightmost flank of his party, though he has generally voted in line with the leadership on major bills.”

Van Drew informed his staff of his decision and several of them resigned shortly after, saying in a letter that they were “deeply saddened and disappointed by his decision.”

Van Drew was subsequently attacked by members of the Democratic Party, including Rep. Steve Cohen (TN) who suggested that Van Drew was a “rat” and a “traitor” for switching parties.

“I think Jeff Van Drew is making a serious mistake. I understand that he feels if he votes against impeachment, he’ll lose in a Democratic primary [and] he could,” Cohen told CNN on Sunday. “But you know he got elected with Democratic votes under a Democratic banner which he ran under for 30 years or so. I think he was a senator and a mayor and a representative and all, and he got Democratic money including Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee money, and to turn and go to be a Republican, it’s kind of strange.”

“I’ve heard of rats jumping off a sinking ship, but very few of them jump onto a sinking ship,” Cohen continued. “The Republicans are in the minority, for his district. Instead of having a congressman who’s in the majority and he gets something done for his district, they’re gonna have a congressman in the minority who can’t get anything done. The lowest thing that there is in the Congress is somebody in the minority side who was a traitor to the majority.”

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