Freshman Rep. Jefferson Van Drew (D-N.J.) said Friday that he expects to oppose articles of impeachment against President Trump, dismissing a push from Democrats in his district to side with the party.
Van Drew represents a district that had long been held by the GOP until his election in 2018. He was one of only two Democrats to break party lines in late October and vote against a resolution establishing procedures for the public phase of the impeachment inquiry.
Van Drew said that the weeks since then — which have featured several public hearings with witnesses to Trump’s dealings with Ukraine and constitutional experts — haven’t changed his position that impeachment isn’t warranted.
“I’ll look at new information that’s presented. I’ll always have an open mind. But where I am now is where I was before,” Van Drew told The Hill.
Van Drew’s position is already drawing ire from Democrats in his district and may lead to a primary challenge next year.
The New Jersey Globe on Friday published a letter from Atlantic County Democratic Committee Chairman Michael Suleiman warning Van Drew that a vote against impeachment risked depressing Democratic turnout down the ballot next year.
“I must touch on the political implications of a vote against impeachment on Atlantic County. Next year, as we are defending two Freeholder seats, a constitutional officer, and Democratic majorities in two municipalities, a ‘no’ vote on impeachment will suppress Democratic turnout down-ballot, which my organization cannot sustain,” Suleiman wrote.
Suleiman also complained that Van Drew’s vote against establishing procedures for the impeachment inquiry this fall “was a big distraction for my candidates and municipal leaders in Atlantic County during the tail end of the general election cycle.”
Van Drew said Friday that he wasn’t concerned that his vote against articles of impeachment would affect other races in his district.
“Not at all. People vote individually,” Van Drew said.
“Nobody ever forces me how to vote,” Van Drew added of Suleiman.
Van Drew’s position has drawn the attention of the president. Trump, who carried Van Drew’s district by nearly 5 points in 2016, has repeatedly tweeted out quotes from the freshman Democrat opposing impeachment.
At least two people are already considering primary challenges against Drew, according to the New Jersey Globe: Brigid Callahan Harrison, a political science professor, and West Cape May Commissioner John H. Francis III. A third, Cumberland County Freeholder Jack Surrency, is being encouraged to take on Van Drew, according to the outlet.
The only other Democrat to vote against procedures for the impeachment inquiry, Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), has not yet indicated how he would vote on articles of impeachment. Peterson represents a district that Trump carried by about 31 points.
Other vulnerable Democrats in swing districts are weighing their options and waiting to see articles of impeachment drafted before taking a position.
“I can’t say if I’m going to vote for or against something until I actually see it,” said freshman Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.), who also flipped a district long held by the GOP last year.
The House Judiciary Committee could move as soon as next week to draft and vote out articles of impeachment, setting up a floor vote the week of Dec. 16.
First, the panel is set to hold a hearing on Monday to receive the presentation of evidence from Democratic and GOP counsels on the Intelligence and Judiciary committees.
It’s unclear whether the White House will participate in Monday’s hearing. House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) gave the White House a deadline of 5 p.m. Friday to say whether or not the president’s counsel will attend.
Democrats gave the clearest sign yet this week at a House Judiciary Committee hearing with constitutional experts that they are eyeing three potential articles of impeachment: abuse of power and bribery, obstruction of Congress and obstruction of justice.
While the impeachment inquiry focused on Trump’s efforts to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and an unproven theory of 2016 election interference, some Democrats have called for including findings in the Mueller report as part of an obstruction of justice charge.