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Heitkamp: Trump Asked Me to ‘Switch Parties’ Before He Was Sworn in as President

Sen. Heidi Heitkamp / Getty Images
• April 11, 2018 10:02 am

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Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (N.D.) said Tuesday that President Donald Trump asked her to "switch parties" to become a Republican during her meeting with him at Trump Tower in December 2016.

Heitkamp revealed Trump's ask while responding to several questions in an interview with the Washington Post about her relationship with Trump in recent years. The senator said that she met with Trump during the transition period after he defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election to discuss a potential role in his Cabinet.

"When I visited with him in Trump Tower before he was sworn in, he asked me to switch parties," Heitkamp said when asked whether Trump courted her to switch parties. "He says, ‘You should switch parties.'"

Heitkamp said that she joked with Trump about giving her the "Ex-Im bank," a reference to Export-Import Bank, an agency she had been pushing to make fully operational.

Later in the interview, Heitkamp said that Trump is always "ribbing" her for being too conservative to be a Democrat, and that she could not help but laugh when Trump first asked her to switch parties. When asked why she has allegiance to the Democratic Party, the senator replied, "I do feel allegiance and ties to the North Dakota Democratic-NPL Party," a reference to the state party, the North Dakota Democratic-Nonpartisan League Party.

While Heitkamp has allegiance to the Democratic Party, she has attempted to distance herself from Democrats attacking Trump in recent months as she faces an uphill reelection bid this year, the Post noted.

These days, Heitkamp is running for reelection in a contest seen as a key battleground in the fight for control of the Senate. Her likely Republican challenger is Rep. Kevin Cramer (R., N.D.), a close Trump ally. Trump urged Cramer to enter the race. After first saying he would not do it, Cramer changed his mind earlier this year, setting up a marquee showdown.

Trump won North Dakota by about 36 points in 2016. To secure a second term this year, Heitkamp will likely have to win over many conservative voters who cast ballots for Trump. She said she has agreements—deregulation and caring about "working people," for example—and disagreements—tariffs, for example—with the president.

A White House spokesman did not immediately respond to the Post‘s request for comment on Heitkamp's account of the Trump Tower meeting in December 2016.