Five senior aides to Rep. Jeff Van Drew (D-N.J.) announced their resignation Sunday ahead of the anti-impeachment lawmaker’s plan to switch to the Republican Party.
The aides in Van Drew’s Washington office wrote a joint letter to his chief of staff Allison Murphy, saying that they are “deeply saddened and disappointed” by their boss’ decision to become a Republican.
“Sadly, Congressman Van Drew’s decision to join the ranks of the Republican party led by [President] Donald Trump does not align with the values we brought to this job when we joined his office,” they wrote in the letter, which was first obtained by Politico and CNN. The letter adds that the aides respect Van Drew, but “can no longer in good conscience continue our service in the Congressman’s employ” due to his party switch.
“Over the past year, Trump Republicans have sided with special interests over the needs of working people,” the letter states. “Worse, they continue to aid and abet Trump as he shreds the Constitution and tears the country apart. They have refused to grapple with how the President of the United States has jeopardized our national security for his own political advantage.”
The five aides who resigned are legislative director Javier Gamboa, deputy chief Edward Kaczmarski, deputy chief Justin M. O’Leary, communications director Mackenzie Lucas and legislative staff assistant Caroline Wood.
Murphy, who is still with Van Drew’s office and is reportedly not resigning, did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
Van Drew has been considered a moderate-conservative Democrat and flipped his Trump-friendly Republican district in southern New Jersey last year to give Democrats the House majority. The freshman has been the Democratic Party’s most public opponent of impeaching Trump and made the decision Friday to cross over to the GOP after personally meeting with the president. The meeting was first reported by The Washington Post.
The Democratic-controlled House is prepared to approve two articles of impeachment ― abuse of power and obstruction of Congress ― against Trump this week, after the chamber’s Judiciary Committee voted to advance the articles on Friday. If the House approves the articles, the impeachment process then moves on to the GOP-controlled Senate for a trial, which Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer requested in a letter Sunday to start on Jan. 6.
Van Drew was one of two Democrats (the other being Minnesota Rep. Collin C. Peterson) to vote against formalizing the impeachment inquiry in October and announced earlier this month that he planned to vote against both articles of impeachment on the House floor.
He was reportedly losing significant Democratic support in his district, so switching parties would allow Van Drew to avoid a Democratic primary challenger, according to a recent polling memo obtained by the Post that showed only 24% of likely Democratic voters thought he should be reelected.
Van Drew has argued that the impeachment process will just further divide the country and that it would be better to let voters decide whether Trump stays in office during the 2020 election. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi actually agreed with that sentiment until an intelligence whistleblower filed a complaint alleging Trump used the power of his office to pressure Ukraine to investigate his 2020 political rival and former Vice President Joe Biden while withholding military aid to the country as leverage.
Pelosi now says it is lawmakers’ constitutional duty to conduct the impeachment investigation and that the country should not wait for the election to decide Trump’s fate because the president has already attempted to have foreign governments interfere in the United States’ election process.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Saturday told Fox News’ Jeanine Pirro that Van Drew is welcome in the Republican Party, “not just by me but by our conference, and we would support him and we would welcome him to join.”
On Monday, Brigid Harrison, a political science professor at Montclair State University, announced she’s running against Van Drew as a Democrat in 2020.
“It’s time to put politics aside and do what’s right for South Jersey,” Harrison said in a press release announcing her candidacy. “We need citizens, not politicians.”
“Jeff Van Drew made a choice,” she continued. “He has repeatedly ignored the voices of our community and has instead sold his soul, cutting backroom deals with the White House.”
Read the five aides’ resignation letter below:
This story has been updated to include Harrison’s announcement.
Hayley Miller contributed reporting.