After nearly a week of speculation, New Jersey Rep. Jeff Van Drew has officially abandoned Democrats to join the Republican Party, he announced during a press conference with President Donald Trump on Thursday.
“I believe that this is just a better fit for me,” Van Drew said in the Oval Office, according to a White House press pool report. “This is who I am.”
He reportedly added that Trump has his “undying support.” In return, the president, Vice President Mike Pence, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) endorsed Van Drew.
“We’re really happy to have Jeff on board,” Trump said during the press conference.
Van Drew’s announcement comes a day after he voted against the two articles of impeachment against Trump. He was one of just two Democrats to vote no on the abuse of power article and one of three Democrats who voted no on the obstruction of Congress article.
Ahead of the House’s impeachment vote Wednesday, Van Drew said Trump’s efforts to get Ukraine to investigate Democratic rival Joe Biden doesn’t warrant removal from office. He said doing so would “disfranchise thousands and thousands of people who voted.”
“It is how an oligarchy operates,” Van Drew told reporters on Capitol Hill. “It is how third-world countries operate.”
Van Drew flipped New Jersey’s 2nd Congressional District from Republican to Democrat in 2018. He became the first Democrat to represent the district since 1995, filling the seat left vacant by retiring Rep. Frank LoBiondo.
Five congressional aides to Van Drew resigned on Sunday ahead of the lawmaker’s planned party switch, writing in a joint letter that they were “deeply saddened and disappointed” by his decision to join the Republican Party.
“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,” they wrote in their letter.
Though he was one of the most Trump-friendly Democrats in the House, last month Van Drew condemned White House adviser Stephen Miller after Miller’s racist emails to editors at Breitbart, a far-right website, were posted online.
“In light of the recent revelations regarding White House Senior Advisor Stephen Miller we must stand up against white supremacist terrorism and the racist rhetoric that encourages it,” Van Drew tweeted at the time.
A representative for Van Drew did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment on whether he still denounces Miller after switching to the Republican Party.
This story has been updated to include additional information about Van Drew’s congressional tenure.
Christopher Mathias contributed reporting.