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A tweet from Trump puts Van Drew in national spotlight

President Donald Trump’s tweet thanking Congressman Jeff Van Drew, D-2nd, for opposing impeachment may have put Van Drew in the crosshairs of leftists nationwide, but it isn’t likely to hurt him in his conservative-leaning district, said one political expert on Monday.

“He’s in a district that Donald Trump won,” said John Froonjian, interim executive director of the William J. Hughes Center for Public Policy at Stockton University. “If anybody knows the area it’s Jeff Van Drew. He goes to every barbecue and every fire hall. I’d have to guess his positions are very well informed from having talked to people throughout the district.”

The latest Tweet storm started after Van Drew appeared on the Fox News Channel show Fox & Friends on Sunday and said he hasn’t seen evidence of any truly impeachable offense, and Democrats need to focus on getting things done like work on veterans issues, Social Security and Medicare, debt and infrastructure.

“Let the people impeach,” Van Drew said on the show. “We are going to have an election very shortly.”

Trump took to Twitter late Sunday evening.

“Thank you. Just another Witch Hunt by Nancy Pelosi and the Do Nothing Democrats,” Trump tweeted, after quoting Van Drew.

Van Drew said his position on impeachment has always been consistent and isn’t for the benefit of Trump.

“I believe it will split the country and hurt both Republican and Democrat constituents at the end of the day, and reduce and negate any work accomplished by this Congress,” Van Drew said Monday, adding he also opposed the President Bill Clinton impeachment.

He said his constituents have made it clear they want him to get things done for them.

“Do we want to have less expensive prescription drugs when we run for election again? Do we want a better election system, a safer one?” Van Drew said. “Those are the things I want to work on.”

While some Democrats on Twitter on Monday called for a primary challenger to Van Drew in 2020, Froonjian said the party organization is likely to stand by him and support his reelection.

Atlantic County Democratic Chairman Michael Suleiman said he hasn’t heard any talk of primary challengers, and he is focused on the 2019 election.

“I’m 1000% focused on the races we have this November. Then after Nov. 5, I can talk about next year,” Suleiman said. “This Ukrainian situation is very serious. I personally very much support the (impeachment) inquiry. We have to get to the bottom of this.”

Van Drew, a member of the moderate to conservative Blue Dog Democrats and of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, won in 2018 by campaigning on issues, Froonjian said.

“It was a recipe for success. Now that recipe is being filed away and impeachment and Ukraine are dominating the headlines,” Froojian said. “He knows how he won the district, and it wasn’t by beating up on Donald Trump.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi launched a formal impeachment inquiry against Trump last week. The probe centers on whether Trump abused his presidential powers and sought help from a foreign government for his reelection whwen he asked the Ukrainian leader to look into the actions of Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden in the Ukraine.

At Pelosi’s appearance Friday in Atlantic City to address a conference of New Jersey Democrats, she called Van Drew “an independent voice” for Democrats in the House.

New Jersey’s second Congressional district made national headlines in the 1973 President Richard Nixon impeachment hearings as well, when Republican Congressman Charles W. Sandman was one of Nixon’s staunches supporters.

Sandman was on the House Judiciary Committee when it considered articles of impeachment.

Sandman lost his seat in the 1974 election to Democrat William J. Hughes, after Nixon resigned. Sandman had said he would vote for impeachment after the release of incontrovertible evidence, but his reputation was harmed by his support for Nixon in the televised hearings.

Van Drew told The Press of Atlantic City both before and after the announcement of the impeachment inquiry that he remains opposed, citing a lack of clear evidence that the president did anything that rises to the level of an impeachable offense.

Van Drew has consistently said he would change his mind and support impeachment if any information came to light about treasonous actions by the president, or proof that he demanded any actions concerning Biden in exchange for foreign aid.

Van Drew set himself apart from the majority of Democra ts on the day he was sworn in to his position in the House of Representatives, when he did not vote for Nancy Pelosi for Speaker.

However, since then Van Drew has often voted with her and the majority. He has also regularly appeared on Fox News Channel shows like Maria Bartiromo’s calling for bipartisan action on issues like immigration, border security and election security.

According to govtrack.us, based on bills Van Drew has sponsored or co-sponsored, he is in the right wing of Democrats but is well to the left of most Republicans and slightly to the left of the most liberal Republicans.

In March, freshman New York Democratic Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio Cortez included Van Drew on a list of Democrats to be targeted with a primary opponent when he is up for re-election in 2020.

Ocasio-Cortez said at the time she would help liberal activists oust Van Drew and 25 other moderate Democrats in the 2020 Democratic congressional primaries, after a vote in which they joined with Republicans to support requiring U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) be notified if an illegal immigrant seeks to buy a gun.

Contact: 609-272-7219 mpost@pressofac.com Twitter @MichelleBPost

Caesars names new regional president for Atlantic City casinos

ATLANTIC CITY — Caesars Entertainment Corp. has selected a regional president for its three Atlantic City casinos, and state gaming regulators may consider approval of the choice later this week.

The gaming company’s licensees in Atlantic City — Bally’s Atlantic City, Caesars Atlantic City, Harrah’s Resort Atlantic City and Caesars Interactive (online) — have submitted a joint petition for Ronald Baumann to assume the duties of regional president.

The Casino Control Commission is tentatively scheduled to consider approving a temporary casino key employee license for Baumann at Wednesday’s public meeting.

The company declined to comment on the appointment.

Baumann is an industry veteran and previously held senior leadership positions at multiple Atlantic City properties operated by Caesars. He is currently general manager and senior vice president of Indiana Grand Racing & Casino in Shelbyville, Indiana.

Baumann would fill the role left vacant after former regional president Kevin Ortzman and the gaming company parted ways in August.

Ortzman was named in the factual allegations of a wrongful termination suit filed in May by a former employee. Caesars filed a response to the civil lawsuit in July and denied the allegations against the company and Ortzman, who is not listed as a defendant.

Ortzman had been president of the Casino Association of New Jersey and a member of the Casino Reinvestment Development Authority executive board.

The governor’s office has not named a replacement for Ortzman’s seat on the CRDA. Steve Callender, senior vice president of operations for the East Region of Tropicana Atlantic City’s parent company, Eldorado Resorts Inc., was recently appointed president of the CANJ.

Eldorado and Caesars are working on a $17.3 billion merger that would create the largest gaming operation in the United States with nearly 60 casino properties in 16 states, including four of the nine casinos in Atlantic City. The deal is still pending shareholder approval as well as permission from federal and state regulators.

Atlantic City police officer arrested in Margate over the weekend

An Atlantic City police officer, currently suspended from the force while awaiting federal trial on excessive force charges, was arrested over the weekend.

Atlantic City Police Officer Sterling Wheaten, 35, was arrested early Saturday morning by police in Margate on charges unrelated to the federal prosecution, according to a report from NJ.com. 

Margate Chief of Police Matthew Hankinson did not respond to phone calls seeking further information on the arrest.

Linda Gilmore, spokesperson for Atlantic County, said Wheaton was processed and released the same day as his arrest.

It was unclear what Wheaten was arrested on. A spokesman for the Atlantic City Police Department said "we will not have a comment at this time as we review the incident."

Wheaten is currently awaiting trial from an October 2018 indictment stemming from federal charges from a violent 2013 arrest in which he allegedly unleashed his K-9 on a Linwood man and justified the excessive force by writing up false reports. An excessive force lawsuit filed by the victim, David Connor Castellani, against the city was settled for $3 million in September 2017.

At the same time he is suing Atlantic City over not being paid his yearly salary while on suspension from the police department. 

According to a lawsuit filed April 4 in Atlantic County Superior Court, Wheaten was initially suspended without pay following his Oct. 10, 2018 federal indictment, pleading not guilty and requesting a suspension hearing.

A suspension hearing was held on Oct. 26, 2018. The lawsuit alleges Police Chief Henry White gave an oral decision to have Wheaten remain suspended but with pay, however the city has refused to respond with a written decision reinstating Wheaten's salary.

An amended complaint filed by Wheaten's lawyer, Louis M. Barbone, from the Atlantic City law firm Jacobs and Barbone, provides copies of requests sent to the Atlantic City Police Department, the office of the City Solicitor and the law office of Blaney and Karavan — the city's representation in the case — for response on the lifted pay suspension.

A motion to dismiss the lawsuit was filed by the city's attorneys in May was met with opposition to the motion filed by Barbone.

Atlantic County Superior Court Judge Julio Mendez heard arguments in the case and denied the dismissal on July 2.

Frank Guaracini, the attorney representing the city, said in a June 20 reply briefing that Wheaten's argument should be rejected because the chief of police is not the final decision maker in the disciplinary process. As of 2016, Atlantic City's governance has been placed under state monitoring, with functions and powers transferred to the Department of Community Affairs.

On Aug. 27, a second motion to dismiss the lawsuit was filed, with Judge Mendez scheduling a telephone case management conference on Sept. 23. Louis Barbone, Wheaten's attorney, requested an alternate date due to a scheduled surgery. 

Court documents available online show no date has been set for the pending case management conference. 

Wheaten was sworn in as an Atlantic City Police Officer on August 30, 2007 and graduated from the Atlantic County K-9 Academy on May 3, 2013. 

Giuliani faces subpoena for documents in impeachment probe

WASHINGTON — House Democrats subpoenaed President Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, for documents on Monday as they ramped up investigations of the president’s dealings with Ukraine.

The House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform panels announced the subpoena as they examine Trump’s efforts to have Ukraine investigate political rival Joe Biden and his family. Giuliani assisted in that effort.

The committees are investigating the matter, the subject of a now-public whistleblower’s complaint, as part of an impeachment inquiry endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi last week. They are moving rapidly with a goal of finishing the inquiry, and perhaps even voting on articles of impeachment, by year’s end.

Both Trump and Giuliani have acknowledged the efforts to influence Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Hunter Biden’s membership on the board of a Ukrainian gas company at the same time his father was leading the Obama administration’s diplomatic dealings with Kyiv.

There has been no evidence of wrongdoing by either of the Bidens.

The chairmen of the three committees noted that Giuliani has acknowledged his efforts to pressure Ukrainian officials on national television.

“In addition to this stark admission, you stated more recently that you are in possession of evidence — in the form of text messages, phone records and other communications — indicating that you were not acting alone and that other Trump administration officials may have been involved in this scheme,” wrote House intelligence committee Chairman Adam Schiff, Foreign Affairs Chairman Eliot Engel and Oversight and Government Reform Chairman Elijah Cummings.

A secret complaint from the whistleblower, whose name is not publicly known, detailed a July phone call between Trump and Zelenskiy in which Trump urged the probe. It also revealed White House efforts to keep the conversation private.

The subpoena comes as Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Monday that Senate rules would require him to take up any articles of impeachment against Trump if approved by the House, swatting down talk that that the GOP-controlled chamber could dodge the matter entirely.

“I would have no choice but to take it up,” McConnell said on CNBC. But he cautioned, “How long you’re on it is a whole different matter.”

If the House approves articles of impeachment — not introduced at this point — they would be sent to the Senate for trial. McConnell suggested he does not have the 67 votes to change the rules. But the Kentucky Republican, the Senate’s chief strategist, left open what he means by taking up the issue.

Those tricky procedural questions could affect Trump’s political future and next year’s presidential and congressional election. Democrats have launched a coordinated political, messaging and polling strategy aimed at keeping any backlash in closely divided districts from toppling their House majority.

House intelligence committee chairman Adam Schiff said on Sunday that the panel would hear from the still-secret whistleblower “very soon,” but that no date had been set and other details remained to be worked out.

Polling showed some movement in public sentiment.

A one-day NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll conducted Sept. 25 found that about half of Americans — 49% — approve of the House formally starting an impeachment inquiry into Trump.

There remains a stark partisan divide on the issue, with 88% of Democrats approving and 93% of Republicans disapproving of the inquiry. But the findings suggest movement: Earlier polls conducted throughout Trump’s presidency have consistently found a majority saying he should not be impeached.

Republicans were split over how and whether to defend Trump’s own words contained in a phone transcript and his actions, described by a whistleblower’s report — both of which were made public by the White House.

The result has been a rainbow of approaches, led by Trump, who stormed on Twitter that the whistleblower was “fake” and suggested the people leading the probe should be arrested and charged with treason.

“The Fake Whistleblower complaint is not holding up,” he tweeted Monday morning.

Trump has insisted his call was “perfect.”

“He didn’t even know that it was wrong,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, describing her own phone call from Trump in which the president suggested the documents would exonerate him.


Associated Press writers Kevin Freking, Eric Tucker and Mary Clare Jalonick in Washington and Bill Barrow in Atlanta, and AP Polling Director Emily Swanson contributed to this report.


Follow Kellman on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/APLaurieKellman