WASHINGTON – A day after becoming the third U.S. president in history to be impeached, President Donald Trump taunted Democrats on Thursday by demanding a trial in the Republican-run Senate and welcoming a party-switching member of the House into the GOP ranks.
“Jeff will be joining the Republican Party,” Trump said during a meeting with Rep. Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey to discuss his defection in the wake of the impeachment drive.
After Trump said he would endorse Van Drew for re-election next year, the New Jersey congressman replied that the Republican Party “is just a better fit for me.”
While thanking Van Drew for his switch, Trump attacked House Democrats for suggesting they may hold onto articles of impeachment rather than submit them to the Senate for trial.
“They’re playing games,” Trump said. “They don’t want to put them in because they’re ashamed of them.”
Asked how he felt about the historic rebuke, Trump echoed comments he made at a campaign rally in Michigan on Wednesday night: “I don’t feel like I’m being impeached because it’s a hoax, it’s a setup, it’s a horrible thing they did.”
Van Drew, one of three Democrats to oppose one or both impeachment articles, told colleagues last weekend he would likely switch parties.
Congressional Democrats more or less said good riddance to Van Drew, saying he was in trouble with New Jersey party members anyway. Some said that Trump is simply using Van Drew to aggrandize the Republicans.
“Intellectually, he couldn’t even articulate his positions and now, he’s a man without a country,” said Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va. “Good luck to him.”
As for Van Drew’s prospects in the Republican Party, Connolly said: “He’s going to be a shiny bright object for this moment and then he’ll be abandoned.”
Some Democrats pointed out that, in his congressional career, Van Drew has voted against Trump policies about nine out of ten times.
“If you want to know why people are so cynical about politicians, Exhibit A is someone who switches parties to hold onto his seat, despite voting against his new party’s president 90% of the time,” said Chris Lu, former senior White House aide to President Barack Obama.
While promoting Van Drew’s party switch, Trump touted Republican solidarity in opposing impeachment. He also criticized Democrats for suggesting they may not submit the impeachment articles to the Republican-run Senate for trial.
“Now the Do Nothing Party want to Do Nothing with the Articles & not deliver them to the Senate, but it’s Senate’s call!” Trump said in a morning tweet that highlighted his Republican support in Congress.
After the impeachment vote late Wednesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calf., said she may delay transmission of the articles until she is assured that the Republican-run Senate will give a fair hearing to the accusations against Trump.
Pelosi continued to duck questions Thursday about her strategy for sending the articles to the Senate for a trial. The speaker told reporters she is holding off on sending the articles until the Senate laid out the parameters of the trial. She then sought to shut down questions about the articles and the impeachment.
Asked about GOP criticism that she is “playing games” by holding on to the articles, Pelosi said: “Frankly, I don’t care what the Republicans say.”
The Democratic-run House voted to pass two articles of impeachment against Trump, abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.
The abuse of power claim deals with Trump’s request to Ukraine to investigate Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and allegations that the president withheld military aid from the country unless it complied with his request.
The obstruction article concerns the Trump administration’s decision to withhold documents and testimony to investigating committees.
In a series of tweets on Thursday, Trump stressed that every House Republican voted against impeachment, and he predicted an acquittal in the GOP-run Senate.
“I got Impeached last night without one Republican vote being cast with the Do Nothing Dems on their continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt in American history,” he said one tweet.
I got Impeached last night without one Republican vote being cast with the Do Nothing Dems on their continuation of the greatest Witch Hunt in American history. Now the Do Nothing Party want to Do Nothing with the Articles & not deliver them to the Senate, but it’s Senate’s call!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 19, 2019
As the administration sought to move forward from the impeachment rebuke, a variety of aides said it would not affect their duties.
For example, when asked whether the House vote would affect ongoing trade talks with China, Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin said: “Absolutely not. I’m not focused on this impeachment stuff at all.”
The White House will move forward with one more Republican in the House.
Per House Democratic caucus rules, no vote is needed to boot Van Drew from the caucus. He will automatically no longer be a member once he resigns from the party.
Van Drew’s announcement came after a week of his declining to say what party he would belong to, or why he suddenly was abandoning the party.
The congressman has said he believes he can win re-election as a member of the GOP, citing the large number of Republicans in his district.
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“My constituency, the majority of them are Republicans, but the biggest majority of them are people who really vote for people because of their individuality and because of how hard they work. And that’s what I’ve always done,” Van Drew said.
Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., said the Democratic defections on impeachment votes came “with an asterisk. Van Drew is not a Democrat.”
Contributing: Courtney Subramanian
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