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Heitkamp says Trump asked her to switch parties

Sen. Heidi HeitkampMary (Heidi) Kathryn HeitkampGrassley suggests moderate Democrats for next Agriculture secretary Major unions back Fudge for Agriculture secretary Five House Democrats who could join Biden Cabinet MORE (D-N.D.) said that President TrumpDonald John TrumpFederal watchdog accuses VOA parent company of wrongdoing under Trump appointee Lawsuit alleges 200K Georgia voters were wrongly purged from registration list Ivanka Trump gives deposition in lawsuit alleging misuse of inauguration funds MORE once asked her to switch political parties during a December 2016 meeting in Trump Tower.

"When I visited with him in Trump Tower before he was sworn in, he asked me to switch parties," Heitkamp told The Washington Post on Tuesday in an interview. 

"He says, 'You should switch parties,'" she recalled. "I said, 'You should give me an Ex-Im bank.'"

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She was referencing the Export-Import Bank. At the time of the meeting, Heitkamp was pressing to have Trump restore full lending powers to the agency. 

Heitkamp said that Trump might have made another overture about switching parties during a flight from Washington to North Dakota in September. At the time, Trump flew the state's congressional delegation on Air Force One for a tax reform event there.

Heitkamp told the Post that Trump often prods her about her party affiliation. 

"He’s always ribbing me a little bit about being too conservative to be a Democrat," she said.

Heitkamp is up for reelection this year, and is among the Senate Democrats expected to face a tough challenge. Trump won in North Dakota by more than 120,000 votes in 2016.

In the interview, Heitkamp sought to cast her allegiance to the state Democratic Party, as opposed to the national party.

"I do feel allegiance and ties to the North Dakota Democratic-[Nonpartisan League] Party," she told the Post.

--Updated at 10:46 p.m.