A New Jersey lawmaker has been removed from the Democratic Blue Dog Coalition following reports that he intends to switch parties and join the Republicans. He has expressed opposition to the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump, Politico reports.
Rep. Jefferson Van Drew (D-N.J.) had previously declined to confirm reports that he had decided to cut ties with the Democratic party and join the GOP following a meeting on Friday with the president.
However, members of the Blue Dog Coalition have now confirmed his departure from the group.
According to The Hill, a senior aide to the Blue Dog Coalition said, “Today, the members of the Blue Dog Coalition voted to rescind Rep. Jeff Van Drew’s (D-N.J.) membership to the Coalition indefinitely.”
Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D-Fla.), co-chairwoman for the administration of the Blue Dog Coalition, also confirmed Van Drew’s departure, noting the bylaws of the group as reasoning.
“Per our bylaws, which require all members to be a member of the Democratic Party, Congressman Van Drew is no longer a member of the Blue Dog Coalition,” she said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Van Drew has declined to confirm his plans to switch parties, just one day before the House of Representatives is set to vote on two articles of impeachment against Trump.
The congressman has been vocal in his criticism of the impeachment inquiry against Trump and was one of two Democrats to vote against formalizing the impeachment process.
On Tuesday, in his first comments since news of his imminent party switch broke, Van Drew told reporters: “People kind of know that I’m going in a direction, but I haven’t announced anything.”
He added that he will announce his intentions soon and that if he does decide to join the Republican Party, it “will be based upon ultimately reconciling the philosophy that I feel in my heart.”
Ahead of his expected party switch, eight members of staff serving the freshman congressman have reportedly resigned.
On Tuesday, Van Drew claimed that the members of staff who resigned were “told to” by nameless officials to quit or they would be blacklisted from future opportunities in the Democratic party.
He declined to say if he had evidence to support the alleged threat but added that “it would be very hard for them to work” if they stayed with him after becoming a Republican.
However, in a joint letter to Van Drew’s Washington office, five of the staff members claimed that the congressman left them no choice, adding that they were “deeply saddened and disappointed by his decision.”
They are legislative director Javier Gamboa, deputy chief Edward Kaczmarski, deputy chief Justin O’Leary, communications director Mackenzie Lucas, and legislative staff assistant Caroline Wood.
In the letter, obtained by Politico, the former aides wrote, “Sadly, Congressman Van Drew’s decision to join the ranks of the Republican Party led by Donald Trump does not align with the values we brought to this job when we joined his office.”
The former staff members added that “Trump Republicans” have worked to “aid and abet Trump as he shreds the Constitution and tears the country apart.”
Van Drew met with Trump on Friday, and although he did not comment on what was discussed, he said he was not pressured in any way by the president to switch parties.
After news of his alleged party switch emerged, the Trump wrote in a statement on Twitter: “Congressman Jeff Van Drew is very popular in our great and very united Republican Party. It was a tribute to him that he was able to win his heavily Republican district as a Democrat.”
“People like that are not easily replaceable!” he added.