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Trump announces Van Drew will become a Republican in Oval Office meeting

President TrumpDonald John TrumpStephen Miller: Trump to further crackdown on illegal immigration if he wins US records 97,000 new COVID-19 cases, shattering daily record Biden leads Trump by 8 points nationally: poll MORE met with Rep. Jefferson Van Drew (N.J.) at the White House on Thursday and announced that the Democrat would switch parties and become a Republican.

“Jeff will be joining the Republican Party,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office on Thursday afternoon, after teasing a “very big announcement.”

Van Drew told Trump he has his “undying support.”

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“I believe that this is just a better fit for me. This is who I am. It’s who I always was but there was more tolerance of moderate Democrats, Blue Dog Democrats or conservative Democrats. And I think that’s gone away,” Van Drew said.  

“You have my undying support. Always,” Van Drew told Trump.

The president then endorsed Van Drew, shaking his hand. 

“I’m endorsing him, OK? We’re endorsing him. I can’t speak for these two gentlemen, but I can say I’m endorsing him,” Trump said, gesturing to House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe truth, the whole truth about protecting preexisting conditions McCarthy urges networks not to call presidential race until 'every polling center has closed' House Republicans slated to hold leadership election on Nov. 17 MORE (R-Calif.) and Vice President Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceHarris more often the target of online misinformation than Pence: analysis Diversifying a patriarchal leadership Who is 'Anonymous' author Miles Taylor? MORE, who joined him in the room.

McCarthy and Pence also pledged their support for the new Republican.

Trump and Van Drew also were joined in the meeting by White House counselor Kellyanne ConwayKellyanne Elizabeth ConwayMelania Trump gives rally remarks in rare joint appearance with the president Melania Trump focuses on coronavirus in return to campaign trail McEnany appears on Fox in 'personal capacity' as Trump campaign adviser MORE, acting chief of staff Mick MulvaneyMick MulvaneyGaffes put spotlight on Meadows at tough time for Trump Trump says he may lower corporate tax rate to 20 percent if reelected Is Social Security safe from the courts? MORE and Ivanka TrumpIvana (Ivanka) Marie TrumpIvanka Trump raises million in a week for father's campaign Ivanka Trump declares position on abortion: 'I am pro-life, and unapologetically so' TikTok dancer who Ivanka Trump retweeted says she meant to mock Trump MORE

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The meeting in the Oval Office came one day after the House voted nearly strictly around party lines to approve two articles of impeachment against Trump for abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

Van Drew, who voted as a Democrat on Wednesday evening, was one of three Democrats who defected and voted against one or both of the articles. Republicans were unanimous in opposition to impeachment, something Trump has cheered in the wake of the historic vote.

“We were very fortunate he voted our way yesterday,” Trump said in the Oval Office on Thursday. “We have a very unified party.” 

The Hill and other news outlets reported over the weekend that Van Drew was expected to switch parties and become a Republican. The former dentist and state lawmaker representing South Jersey won his election last year in New Jersey's 2nd Congressional District by defeating former Rep. Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.).

Trump won the district by 4.6 percentage points in 2016, though it was one the previous two presidential cycles by President Obama.

Asked Wednesday why he was remaining a Democrat for the votes when impeachment was the reason he was switching parties, Van Drew told The Hill he felt it was “appropriate” that he voted as a Democrat.

"This is a big vote. I started discussing this issue and my concerns with it as a Democrat. I think it's appropriate," Van Drew said Wednesday afternoon, just hours before the impeachment votes.

Van Drew repeatedly sidestepped questions from reporters about the timing of his party switch before his meeting with Trump on Thursday.

Trump on Thursday called his impeachment a “hoax” and claimed Democrats pressured others in their party to vote in favor of impeachment, pointing to Van Drew as an example.

“It’s a hoax. It’s a set up. It’s a horrible thing they did,” Trump said.

House Democrats will not need a formal vote to boot Van Drew out of their caucus.

Under Democratic rules, Van Drew will automatically lose his membership in the Democratic Caucus upon his resignation from the party, Democratic aides said.

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The broad majority of vulnerable Democrats representing districts Trump won in 2016 voted in favor of the two articles of impeachment on Wednesday.

The House accused Trump of abusing his office by pressuring Ukraine to pursue investigations that could benefit his 2020 reelection campaign, and obstructing the congressional inquiry into his dealings with Kyiv. Trump has denied any wrongdoing and accused Democrats of a partisan effort to damage him politically.

Mike Lillis, Scott Wong, and Brett Samuels contributed.

Updated at 4:11 p.m.