A lawyer for former Vice President Mike Pence discovered a dozen documents marked as classified at Pence’s home in Indiana last week, and he turned those classified documents over to the FBI, multiple sources familiar with the matter told CNN. case.
The FBI and the National Security Division of the Justice Department have launched a review of the documents and how they ended up at Pence’s Indiana home.
The classified documents were discovered at Pence’s new home in Carmel, Indiana, by an attorney for Pence following revelations of classified documents discovered in President Joe Biden’s private office and residence, the sources said. The discovery comes after Pence repeatedly said he had no classified documents in his possession.
It is not yet known what the documents are related to or their level of sensitivity or classification.
Pence’s team briefed congressional leaders and relevant committees on Tuesday on the discovery.
Pence asked his attorney experienced in handling classified documents to search his home out of an abundance of caution. Sources said the attorney, Matt Morgan, began going through four boxes stored at Pence last week, finding a small number of documents with classified marks.
Pence’s attorney immediately alerted the National Archives, the sources said. In turn, the Archives notified the Department of Justice.
A lawyer for Pence told CNN that the FBI requested to retrieve the documents with classified marks that evening, and Pence agreed. Agents from the FBI Indianapolis Field Office recovered the documents from Pence’s home, the attorney said.
On Monday, Pence’s legal team took the boxes back to Washington, DC, and turned them over to the Archives to review the rest of the material to comply with the Presidential Records Act.
In a letter to the National Archives obtained by CNN, Pence’s representative at the Archives, Greg Jacob, wrote that a “small number of documents bearing classified marks” were inadvertently packaged and transported to the vice president’s home.
“Vice President Pence was unaware of the existence of any sensitive or classified documents at his personal residence,” Jacob wrote. “Vice President Pence understands the great importance of protecting sensitive and classified information and stands ready and willing to cooperate fully with the National Archives and any appropriate investigation.”
The classified material was stored in boxes that first went to Pence’s temporary home in Virginia before being moved to Indiana, the sources said. The boxes were not in a secure area, but they were taped and would not have been opened since they were wrapped, according to Pence’s attorney. Once the classified documents were discovered, the sources said they were placed in a safe located in the house.
Pence’s Washington, DC, advocacy group The office was also searched, Pence’s attorney said, and no classified documents or other documents covered by the Presidential Archives Act were found.
Pence’s news comes as special advocates investigate the handling of classified documents by Biden and former President Donald Trump. The revelations also come amid speculation that Pence is preparing to run for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
Since the FBI searched Trump’s Florida home for classified documents in August with a search warrant, Pence said he had kept no classified documents when he left office. “No, not to my knowledge,” he told The Associated Press in August.
In November, ABC News asked Pence at his Indiana home if he had taken any classified documents from the White House.
“I didn’t,” Pence replied.
“Well, there would be no reason to have any documents classified, especially if they were in an unprotected area,” Pence continued. “But I will tell you that I believe there had to be many better ways to solve this problem than executing a search warrant at the personal residence of a former President of the United States.”
While Vice President Pence’s office generally did a rigorous job as it left its duties of sorting and turning over all classified and unclassified material covered by the Presidential Archives Act, these classified documents appear to have inadvertently escaped the process because most of the documents were packaged separately from the vice president’s residence, along with Pence’s personal papers, the sources told ClNN.
The vice president’s residence at the US Naval Observatory in Washington has a secure facility for handling classified documents along with other security items, and it would be common for classified documents to be there for the vice president to president examines them.
Some of the boxes from Pence’s Indiana home were packed from the vice president’s residence, while some came from the White House in the final days of the Trump administration, which included last-minute things that did not follow the process the rest of Pence. documents did.
The discovery of classified documents in Pence’s residence marks the third time in recent history that a president or vice president has inappropriately possessed classified documents after leaving office. Biden and Trump are now under investigation by separate special advocates for their handling of classified documents.
Sources familiar with the process say Pence’s discovery of classified documents after the Trump and Biden controversies would suggest a more systemic issue related to classified documents and the Presidential Records Act, which requires official White House documents to be kept. turned over to the National Archives at the end of an administration.
The FBI searched Biden’s Wilmington residence for additional classified documents on Friday, an unprecedented search of a sitting president’s home that revealed six additional items containing classified marks. The search was conducted after Biden’s lawyers uncovered classified documents in Wilmington following the initial discovery of classified documents at Biden’s private think tank in November.
Biden’s attorneys say they are cooperating fully with the Justice Department, seeking to draw a line with the Trump investigation.
Tuesday’s development was good news for Biden administration officials and their allies. As one senior administration official put it, “It brings the temperature down that this is a Biden-only story.”
One hope, the official said, is that the discovery of classified documents at Pence’s home will help point out that Biden aides weren’t the only ones who made the mistake of packing classified documents that should have been turned over. in the Archives.
The development could also be used by the White House, the official said, to highlight the importance of how the situation was handled once the classified documents were discovered.
Administration officials argued that attorneys working for the president did the right thing by immediately notifying the Archives as soon as classified documents were first discovered in early November, distinguishing between handling the case by Biden’s legal team and the actions of Trump and his team.
The FBI obtained a search warrant to search Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in August. Federal investigators took the action because they believed Trump had not turned over all classified documents despite being served a subpoena and feared Mar-a-Lago’s records could be moved.
Still, Trump’s legal team also viewed Pence’s development as positive for the former president, according to a source familiar with the matter. While the circumstances are different in each case, members of his legal team believe the developments will make it harder for prosecutors to justify bringing criminal charges against any of them, the source said.
“They’re all related in some way now,” the source said, referring to Pence, Biden and Trump.
Last week, Pence told Larry Kudlow in a Fox Business interview that he received the President’s Daily Brief at the vice president’s residence.
“I would get up early. I would go to the safe where my military aide would place these classified documents. I would pull them out, review them,” Pence said. “I’d give them a presentation, and then, frankly, most often, Larry, I’d just put them back in the folder I got them in. They usually went into what was called a burn bag that my military aide would collect and then destroy these classified documents – the same goes for the documents I would receive at the White House.
Congressional leaders from both parties were stunned by new revelations that Pence was also in possession of classified documents at his home.
“I don’t understand that,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin.
“At the end of the day, I don’t know how it happened, we have to get to the bottom of it,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina. “I don’t believe for a minute that Mike Pence is trying to intentionally compromise national security. But clearly we have a problem here.
House Oversight Chairman James Comer, a Republican from Kentucky who is investigating Biden’s classified documents, said in a statement that Pence contacted him about the classified documents found in his home.
“He’s agreed to fully cooperate with Congressional oversight and any questions we have about it,” Comer said, adding that Pence’s transparency “contrasts sharply” with the Biden administration’s response to Congress on the issues. classified documents. Comer’s statement did not mention Trump’s classified documents.
The former president, however, came to Pence’s defense on Tuesday. “Mike Pence is an innocent man. He has never knowingly done anything dishonest in his life. Leave him alone!!!” Trump posted on his social media site.
This story has been updated with additional details.