WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump held a triumphant White House meeting Thursday to show off a Democratic congressman defecting to his Republican party, portraying the switch as proof that his impeachment is “a hoax”.
Representative Jeff Van Drew, from New Jersey, was one of a handful of Democrats who bucked the party line and opposed Trump’s impeachment Wednesday on two counts.
Trump brought Van Drew to the Oval Office, seating him in one of the armchairs typically used for visiting foreign leaders, and told reporters “Jeff will now be joining the Republican party”.
“It’s a big deal,” Trump said.
“I can say I am endorsing him.”
Van Drew told Trump: “You have my undying support, always.”
Trump, clasping Van Drew’s hand, returned the pledge, saying: “Same way.”
For Trump, this stage-managed presentation of a political scalp underlined his Republican party’s total loyalty during impeachment.
Democrats were able to pass the two articles – abuse of office and obstruction of Congress – thanks to a healthy majority in the lower house.
But while Republicans were unanimous in voting against, the Democrats saw two of their members break with the party line on the first article and three on the second. Another member of the party sat out the vote.
Trump will now become only the third president in US history to face a trial in the Senate, where his Republicans have the majority.
Trump once again branded the entire procedure a “hoax” and said “I don’t feel like I am being impeached”.
Americans, he said, will still reelect him in 2020, in large part because “We have the greatest economy in the history of our country. We’ve never done so well”.
Democrats say that testimony from senior government officials and diplomats proves that Trump used a hold-up of foreign aid to Ukraine to try and force the country into opening an unnecessary, politically damaging corruption probe against one of his main 2020 challengers, Joe Biden.
He then attempted to block officials from testifying before Congress or sharing documentation on the matter.