Attorneys for former Vice President Mike Pence discovered about a dozen documents marked as classified at Pence’s Indiana home last week and have turned those classified documents over to the FBI, multiple sources familiar with the matter told CNN.
The FBI and the Justice Department’s National Security Division have launched a review of the documents and how they ended up at Pence’s home in Indiana.
Lawyers for Pence discovered classified documents at the former vice president’s new home in Carmel, Indiana, in the wake of revelations about classified material found in President Joe Biden’s private office and residence, sources said. The discovery comes after Pence has repeatedly said he does not have any classified documents.
It is not yet clear what the documents relate to or their level of sensitivity or classification.
Pence’s team notified congressional leaders and relevant committees of the findings on Tuesday.
Pence asked his attorneys, who have experience handling classified material, to carefully conduct the search of his home. Attorney Matt Morgan began examining four boxes stored at Pence’s home last week, finding a small number of documents with classified markings.
Pence’s lawyer immediately alerted the National Archives, sources said. In turn, the Archives informed the Department of Justice.
Pence’s attorney told CNN that the FBI requested documents with classified identities that evening, and Pence agreed. Agents from the FBI’s field office in Indianapolis took the documents from Pence’s home, the lawyer said.
On Monday, Pence’s legal team returned the boxes to Washington, DC, and handed the remaining items over to the Archives to review for compliance with the Presidential Records Act.
In a letter to the National Archives obtained by CNN, Greg Jacobs, Pence’s representative to the archives, wrote that “a small number of documents with classified markings” were inadvertently boxed up and shipped to the vice president’s home.
“Vice President Pence was not aware of the existence of sensitive or classified documents at his personal residence,” Jacobs wrote. “Vice President Pence understands the great importance of protecting sensitive and classified information and is ready and willing to cooperate fully with the National Archives and any appropriate inquiry.”
The classified material was stored in boxes that first went to Pence’s temporary home in Virginia, according to sources. According to Pence’s lawyer, the boxes were not in a secure area, but were taped up and believed not to have been opened since they were packed. After the classified documents were found, they were kept in a safe in the house, sources said.
Pence is a Washington, DC, advocacy group The office was also searched, Pence’s lawyer said, and no classified material or other documents covered by the Presidential Records Act were found.
The news about Pence comes as the special counsel is investigating the handling of classified documents by both Biden and former President Donald Trump. The revelations come amid speculation that Pence is set to run for the Republican nomination for president in 2024.
Since the FBI searched Trump’s home in Florida for classified material with a search warrant in August, Pence has said he has not retained any classified material since leaving office. “No, not to my knowledge,” he told The Associated Press in August.
In November, Pence was asked by ABC News at his Indiana home whether he had taken any classified documents from the White House.
“I didn’t,” Pence responded.
“Well, there’s no reason to have classified documents, especially if they’re in an unsecured area,” Pence continued. “But I will tell you that I believe there are many better ways to solve that problem than to execute a search warrant at the personal residence of the former president of the United States.”
While Pence’s vice president’s office often did the hard work of sorting out and turning over any classified and unclassified material covered by the Presidential Records Act, these classified documents unknowingly slipped through the process. Items from the vice president’s residence, along with Pence’s personal papers, were packed separately, sources told CNN.
The Vice President’s residence at the US Naval Observatory in Washington has a secure facility for handling classified material, among other security, and it is common for the Vice President to have classified documents for inspection.
While some of the boxes at Pence’s Indiana home were packed from the vice president’s residence, some came from the White House in the final days of the Trump administration, including last-minute items that didn’t go through the rest of Pence’s process. Documents were done.
The discovery of classified documents at Pence’s residence marks the third time in recent history in which a president or vice president has improperly possessed classified material after leaving office. Both Biden and Trump are now under investigation by separate special counsels for their handling of classified material.
Sources familiar with the process say Pence’s discovery of classified documents after the Trump and Biden controversies points to a more systemic problem with the Classified Material and Presidential Records Act, which requires the transfer of official White House documents to the National Archives. End of administration.
On Friday, the FBI searched Biden’s Wilmington residence for additional classified material, an unprecedented search of a sitting president’s home that turned up six additional items with classified markings. The search followed the initial discovery of classified documents in the office of Biden’s private counsel in November after Biden’s lawyers discovered classified material in Wilmington.
Biden’s lawyers say he is cooperating fully with the Justice Department, which is trying to draw distinction from the Trump investigation.
Tuesday’s development was welcome news to Biden administration officials and allies. As one senior administration official put it: “It lowers the temperature of the Biden-only story.”
One hope, the official said, is that the discovery of classified documents at Pence’s home helps underscore that Biden aides are not alone in making the mistake of packing away classified documents that should have been turned over to the archives. The White House could also use the development to underscore the importance of how the situation was handled after the classified documents were discovered, the official said.
Administration officials have maintained that lawyers working for the president did the right thing by notifying the archives as soon as the classified documents were discovered in early November, drawing a distinction between the handling of the matter by Biden’s legal team and Trump’s actions. the team
The FBI obtained a search warrant to search Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in August. Federal investigators took that action because Trump had not turned over all classified material despite a subpoena and because they believed documents at Mar-a-Lago were being moved.
Still, Trump’s legal team saw Pence’s development as a positive for the former president, according to a source familiar with the matter. While the circumstances in each case are different, members of his legal team believe the developments will make it difficult for prosecutors to justify bringing criminal charges against any of them, sources said.
“They’re all linked in some way now,” the source said, referring to Pence, Biden and Trump.
Pence received the President’s Daily Brief at the Vice President’s Residence during a Fox Business interview with Larry Kudlow earlier this month.
“I get up early. I go to the safe place where my military aides keep those classified materials. I take them out, review them,” Pence said. He was commonly known as my burn bag. Military aides collect and destroy that classified material — the same goes for the material I receive at the White House.
Congressional leaders in both parties were stunned by the new revelation that Pence had classified documents at his home.
“I don’t understand it,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin.
“The bottom line is I don’t know how this happened, we have to get to the bottom of it,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina. “I don’t believe for one minute that Mike Pence is intentionally trying to compromise national security. But clearly we have a problem here. ”
House Foreign Affairs Chairman Michael McCaul responded to the development, calling it “unacceptable”.
“Whether you’re the chairman of the committee or the president or vice president of the United States, I don’t know what to say to you except that this is not allowed. And I’ve been dealing in a classified world in my career; I don’t understand why people take these documents home. If you do, you should have a designated safe for storage and you should have a proper briefcase to carry it. I don’t know all the facts here,” the Texas Republican said.
House Oversight Chairman James Comer, Republican of Kentucky, which is investigating Biden’s classified documents, said in a statement that he had reached out to Pence about the classified documents found at his home.
“He has agreed to fully cooperate with congressional oversight and any questions we have about this matter,” Comer said, adding that Pence’s transparency was in “stark contrast” to the Biden administration’s response to Congress about classified documents. Comer’s statement did not mention Trump’s classified documents.
However, the former president came to Pence’s defense on Tuesday. “Mike Pence is an innocent man. He had never committed a known dishonesty in his life. Leave him alone!!!” Trump posted on his social media.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Pence’s appearance on Fox Business. It has been updated with additional details.