Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a vocally anti-impeachment Democrat from New Jersey, will become a Republican next week, sources told a number of news outlets.
Van Drew met with Trump on Friday, and the president urged him to switch parties, the Washington Post first reported. The congressman reportedly told his staff on Saturday that he had decided to make the move.
Neither Van Drew nor office did immediately responded to requests for comment.
The New York Times reported that Van Drew could make an announcement as soon as next week, just as the House prepares to vote on impeachment.
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. Van Drew was one of just two House Democrats to oppose the House’s Oct. 31 vote to authorize the impeachment inquiry.
In an interview with USA Today last month, Van Drew said of impeachment: “To some folks, that’s reminiscent of what was done to kings and queens many years ago. Everything our country doesn’t stand for.”
He told reporters last week: “It was supposed to be bipartisan, it was supposed to be incontrovertible. It was supposed to be something that was always on the rarest of circumstances. Well it’s not bipartisan.”
According to an analysis by FiveThirtyEight, VanDrew, a moderate freshman Democrat, has otherwise voted mostly with his party leadership and against Trump. But he sided with the president when the House voted in June to hold Attorney General William Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in criminal contempt of Congress over the 2020 Census citizenship question.
Last month, Van Drew, a moderate freshman Democrat, said more than once that his opposition to impeachment would not cause him to switch parties.
However, the position has cost him support in his district, which voted for Trump for nearly five points in 2016. A poll leaked by his campaign showed that only 24 percent of Democratic primary voters supported him, with 60 percent in favor of a new candidate. Fully 71 percent said they would be less likely to vote for him if he opposed the charges against Trump.
Van Drew has also been at odds with Democrats in his home state over other issues, including his support for gun rights.
Democrats slam Jeff Van Drew on the way out
Earlier in the day, New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy, a Democrat, slammed Van Drew’s decision to cross the aisle as “cynical and desperate.”
“Jeff Van Drew has chosen his political career over our Constitution,” Murphy said in a statement. “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.”
Michael Suleiman, the chair of the Atlantic County Democratic Committee, told USA Today Van Drew is a “coward.”
“Good riddance. The Republicans can have him,” he said. “If he runs as a Republican, we’ll kick his butt.”
However, Van Drew is not the only Democrat to speak out against impeachment.
Rep. John Yarmuth, a Kentucky Democrat, has warned that impeaching Trump, though the right thing to do in his opinion, “could be bad politics.”
In November,Rep. Brenda Lawrence, a Michigan Democrat, said that Trump should be censured rather than removed from office. But she later walked back that position.
Other Democrats, including Joe Cunningham of South Carolina, have yet to make up their minds. Cunningham last week told Vice his constituents are tired of impeachment and want to “move on” to other issues, like lowering prescription drug prices.
He said he would “pray about” how to vote.