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Van Drew refuses to talk party switch

Van Drew refuses to talk party switch
© Greg Nash
Rep. Jefferson Van Drew, the lifelong New Jersey Democrat leaving the party over President TrumpDonald John TrumpBiden says GOP senators have called to congratulate him Biden: Trump attending inauguration is 'of consequence' to the country Biden says family will avoid business conflicts MORE's impeachment, on Tuesday refused to say which party he'll be a part of going forward. 
 
“I have not made a decision that I'm willing to share with anybody,” Van Drew told a gaggle of 20 reporters in the Capitol. “I'm trying to be gentle. And I'm telling you, I am where I am. And you'll hear in a relatively short period of time.”

The remarks were Van Drew's first public comments since news broke over the weekend that the freshman lawmaker who flipped a GOP-held seat in 2018 had met with President Trump and would be leaving the Democratic Party. 

But his seven-minute interview in a hallway just off the House floor provided little clarity about what he plans to do next. He declined to say whether he would announce his party switch before or after Wednesday’s historic impeachment vote. And he declined to say whether he would appear with Trump when he makes an announcement.

Just last week, Van Drew swatted down questions from reporters about whether he was switching parties, declaring: “I’m still a Democrat right here.”

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Asked if he had lied to reporters last week, Van Drew replied: “I don't know if you consider it a lie. I think you would consider it a hope and a wish.”

The fallout has roiled the Democratic Party in both New Jersey and Washington. On Tuesday, members of the centrist Blue Dog Coalition voted to boot Van Drew out of the group, leaders of the group said.

Six of Van Drew’s staffers resigned in recent days. A seventh, Durwood Pinkett, who served as Van Drew's deputy district director, resigned Tuesday, two Democratic sources told The Hill. 

Pressed about why his staffers resigned when Van Drew had not made any public announcement, the sharply dressed congressman suggested that his staffers were told they would never work in politics again if they stayed with him.

“They were told to, they were told to [resign]. … They had to or else they wouldn’t work again,” said Van Drew, who refused to say who exactly had threatened his staffers. 

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“I didn't tell them anything that prompted them to quit; they decided to quit based on certain things — that's up to them,” he said.

Many of them have already landed jobs elsewhere in the party. A New Jersey Democrat, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone Jr., said he would hire Democratic Van Drew employees who resigned, while Rep. Cheri BustosCheryl (Cheri) Lea BustosMaloney to lead Democrats' campaign arm Democratic Women's Caucus members split endorsements for House campaign chief Rep. Rick Allen tests positive for COVID-19 MORE (D-Ill.) vowed to bring his campaign workers on board at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

In his interview with reporters, Van Drew once again warned that impeachment would tear the country apart.

“I did not believe that this rose to the level of impeachment. Impeachment is a serious issue. Impeachment is going to fracture the country even more. Impeachment is going to make people even angrier and angrier at each other, and we're going to have an election in 10 or 11 months,” Van Drew said. “I don't believe that impeachment is the proper tool to utilize to do this. I think it's actually a clumsy tool that is meant for very, very, very serious issues. And that's why, as we all know, it's only been used three times in history.”

Sylvan Lane and Juliegrace Brufke contributed.