WASHINGTON - Democratic Rep. Jeff Van Drew said Wednesday that he will vote against articles of impeachment that outline the case for President Trump's removal from office, becoming the first Democrat to publicly say he will not vote with his colleagues.
Van Drew, a Democrat who represents a district in New Jersey that favored Trump by five points in 2016, has been a vocal opponent to the impeachment effort examining whether Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rival, former Vice President Joe Biden. Trump denies the allegations and has called the inquiry a "hoax."
Van Drew said that he did not think Trump's conduct was grounds for impeachment and that impeachment would only end up helping the president in 2020.
"I don't see anything there worthy of actually taking a president out of office," he said. "I'm concerned about splitting our nation apart."
He said he believed there were other mechanisms for removing a president from office. An election, he noted, could do this. Van Drew said one of his biggest concerns was emboldening Trump because an impeachment trial in the GOP-controlled Senate will likely not lead to his removal from office.
"I always say, you got to really be careful what you wish for in life," he said. "I think (Trump) actually gets help with this, to be honest with you. He's going to be able to go all over the country and say he is found not guilty."
Unsavory,' not impeachable: Democratic lawmaker explains why he opposes removing Trump
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Van Drew added that some of his Democratic colleagues have reached out to him about impeachment and guessed as many as three or four in total could join him in voting against impeachment articles.
"There are numbers of my colleagues who are thinking about it, what they want to do, and are not sure," he said.
Van Drew was one of two House Democrats who voted against impeachment procedures in October, with 232 voting in favor, including Independent Justin Amash. The other was Rep. Collin Peterson, a Democrat who represents a district in Minnesota that went to Trump by 30 points in the 2016 election.
Peterson has not come to a firm conclusion yet over how he will vote on articles, telling the Washington Examiner that he was still looking over everything but was "leaning no."
The two Democrats have become a Republican talking point with Trump even jumping in the mix. The president has tweeted about Van Drew several times since October.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., brought up the pair Wednesday evening during a House Judiciary Committee hearing to debate the articles of impeachment, using them as examples of members the impeachment inquiry had failed to convince.
"Democrats Jeff Van Drew and Collin Peterson don't support the president," said Gaetz, but they also don't support the "hot garbage" impeachment.
In an interview with USA TODAY, Van Drew said he found Trump's conduct "unsavory" and shrugged off that his words have helped fuel the GOP, saying "I believe what I said. And I do believe all of this hasn't really accomplished a lot of good for us. It hasn't brought people together."
Contributing: Ledge King and Nicholas Wu
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Trump impeachment: Democratic Rep. Van Drew will vote no on articles