His attorney said documents marked classified were discovered at former Vice President Mike Pence’s mansion in Indiana last week, the latest in a string of alleged document seizures. is handled with extreme sensitivity from the homes of current and former top US officials.
Pence’s attorney, Greg Jacob, wrote in a letter to the National Archives: “A small number of documents,” seized by the FBI last Thursday, “were inadvertently boxed and shipped.” to the former vice president’s home at the end of the previous term. shared with the Associated Press.
He said that Pence was “not aware of the existence of sensitive or classified documents at his personal residence” until a search last week and that he “understood the importance of protection of sensitive and classified information” and is willing to cooperate with “any appropriate party”. investigation.”
The revelation comes as the Justice Department is investigating the discovery of classified documents in President Joe Biden’s home in Delaware and his former Washington office, as well as the former’s Florida mansion President Donald Trump. The Democrat’s Biden has said he will run for re-election, the Republican’s Trump is already a declared candidate and Pence is exploring a possible 2024 campaign that will put him in direct competition. with Trump, his former boss.
The latest discovery has pushed Pence, who has previously asserted that he follows strict protocols regarding classified documents, into debate over the handling of secret documents by former officials. served in the highest levels of government.
Trump is currently under criminal investigation after the discovery of about 300 documents marked classified, including top secret at his Mar-a-Lago. Officials are trying to determine whether Trump or anyone else should be charged with illegally possessing those records or of attempting to obstruct a months-long criminal investigation. Biden is also the subject of a special counsel investigation after classified documents from his time as a senator and during the Obama administration were found at his home.
Trump, who denies any wrongdoing, reacted to the new development on his social media page: “Mike Pence is an innocent man. He has never done anything intentionally dishonest. in life. Leave him alone!!!” Trump and Pence have clashed over Pence’s refusal to support Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election.
While a very different case, Pence’s development could strengthen the arguments of Trump and Biden, who have sought to downplay the significance of their home discoveries. The presence of secret documents at all three men’s residences underscores the federal government’s unwieldy system for storing and protecting the millions of classified documents it generates each year.
Pence’s attorney, Jacob, said in his letter that the former vice president had “hired an outside attorney with experience handling classified documents” to review records stored at his home on January 16 “out of an abundance of caution” amid the uproar over the incident. the discovery of documents at Biden’s home.
Jacob said Pence documents with the classification mark were immediately secured in a locked safe. FBI agents arrived at the residence at 9:30 p.m. on January 19 to collect the classified documents, according to a follow-up letter from the attorney dated January 22. Pence is in Washington for an incident. lawsuit at that time.
According to the letter, a total of four boxes containing copies of administrative documents — two boxes containing “a small number” of papers with the classification mark were found and two boxes containing “copy of calendars”. of the vice president’s papers” – was discovered, according to the letter. Agreements were made to ship those boxes to the National Archives on Monday.
Congressional leaders were briefed on the finding by Pence’s team on Tuesday.
According to an aide to Pence, the boxes were not stored in a safe place but were taped tightly and were believed to have not been opened because they were packaged. The former vice president’s staff also searched the office of his advocacy group in Washington last week and found no further documents, according to a person who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the search.
The materials found in the boxes mostly came from the vice president’s residence at Pence’s Naval Observatory, whose packaging would not be handled by the vice president’s office or attorneys for the vice president’s office. The person said other documents came from an office drawer in the West Wing.
The National Archives declined to comment on the find. A Justice Department spokesman also declined to comment, and Pence’s attorney did not immediately respond to an email requesting a detailed explanation.
Pence told the Associated Press in August that he did not bring any classified information with him when he left office.
Asked directly if he had withheld any such information, he said, “No, I don’t know.”
In an interview this month with Fox Business, Pence described a “very formal process” used by his office to handle classified information as well as the steps his attorneys take to ensure no information has been taken away.
“Before we left the White House, attorneys on my staff reviewed all the documents in both the White House and our offices there and at the vice president’s residence to made sure that any documents that needed to be turned over to the National Archives, including classified documents, were delivered. So we went through a very careful process on that,” Pence said. speak.
On Capitol Hill, members of the Senate intelligence committee expressed skepticism about the mishandling of documents by top US officials.
Republican Senator John Cornyn of Texas noted that classified documents were only moved out of the committee’s offices in locked bags.
“In my book, confidential documents are never allowed out of a secure facility,” he said, except by a secure means of transport between those facilities.
House Intelligence Chairman Mike Turner, a Republican, said he plans to request a formal intelligence review and damage assessment.
And Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida, another potential candidate for the 2024 election, said: “I don’t know how people get their hands on classified documents. … Italy I’m, every classified document I’ve ever seen has big ‘Confidential’ written on it.”
Senator Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and a senior member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has pointed to broader concerns with the classification system, complaining that “there’s too much out of the box.” It’s hard to determine what.” should be classified, and then it is difficult to determine what should be declassified.”
Meanwhile, some Republicans demanded a search of former President Barack Obama’s personal files.
Obama’s spokesman referred to a 2022 statement from the National Archives that said the agency took control of all of his records after he left office and was “not aware of any records. any presidential records lost from the Obama administration.”
Representatives for former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and former Vice President Dick Cheney said all of their classified files were turned over to NARA upon leaving the White House.
Mike Pompeo, who served as Trump’s secretary of state and is weighing his own 2024 GOP presidential run, told the AP in August that he did not bring any classified documents with him after leaving the administration.
But he told Fox News on Tuesday, “When you’re in law enforcement, you have these documents in your house. One can imagine a note stuck somewhere. I doubt it. That might be what happened.”
Associated Press writers Eric Tucker, Zeke Miller, Farnoush Amiri and Mary Clare Jalonick contributed to this report from Washington.