Trump celebrates Rep. Van Drew's switch from Democrat to GOP

Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey departs the Capitol after the House of Representatives voted to impeach President Donald Trump on two charges, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress. Van Drew, a Democrat who plans to switch and become a Republican, represents a southern New Jersey district that Trump carried in 2016 and was expected to face a difficult reelection next year. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON, DC – President Donald Trump announced Thursday that Rep. Jeff Van Drew, a New Jersey Democrat who broke with his party to vote against Trump's impeachment, is officially switching parties and becoming a Republican.

“Jeff will be joining the Republican Party," Trump announced during an Oval Office event with Van Drew, who broke the news to his staff over the weekend, prompting widespread resignations. "It's a big deal.”

Van Drew on Wednesday broke with his party and voted against impeaching Trump — a move that bolstered GOP attempts to depict Democrats as divided on the matter. Republicans voted unanimously against it.

“I believe that this is just a better fit for me,” Van Drew said of his decision, promising Trump his “undying support."

“This is who I am, it's who I always was, but there was more tolerance of moderate Democrats, of Blue Dog Democrats, of conservative Democrats,” said Van Drew, “and I think that's going away."

Trump, reveling in the decision, promised to return the favor and announced that he is endorsing Van Drew for reelection, calling him “a tremendous asset for the party."

Van Drew had been facing the possibility of an uphill Democratic primary, including a challenge from Brigid Harrison, a Montclair State University political science professor who is frequently quoted in local press and had secured the backing of top local Democrats, including the New Jersey senate president. Amy Kennedy, the wife of former Rhode Island Democratic Rep. Patrick Kennedy, is also considering a run.

Van Drew told reporters on the Hill after his White House meeting that he hoped the president's endorsement would be a boon, saying that, "in any primary, when you have a president supporting you, it is helpful, for sure.”