A lawyer for former Vice President Mike Pence discovered nearly a dozen documents marked as classified at Pence’s Indiana home last week, and he turned the classified records over to the FBI, multiple sources familiar with the matter told CNN.
The FBI and the Department of Justice’s national security division have begun looking into the documents and how they got to Pence’s home in Indiana.
Sources said the classified documents were discovered in Pence’s new home in Carmel, Indiana, by a Pence defense attorney following the release of classified materials in President Joe Biden’s private office and residence. This discovery comes at a time when Pence has repeatedly said that he did not have any secret documents in his hands.
It is not yet clear what these documents are related to or their level of sensitivity and classification.
On Tuesday, Pence’s team notified congressional leaders and relevant committees of their findings.
Pence asked his attorney, experienced in handling classified material, to conduct the search of his home with extreme caution. Attorney Matt Morgan began going through four boxes stored in Pence’s home last week and found a small number of documents with classified markings, sources said.
Pence’s attorney immediately notified the National Archives, sources said. In turn, the archive informed the Ministry of Justice.
An attorney for Pence told CNN that the FBI asked to receive classified documents and that Pence agreed. Agents from the FBI’s Indianapolis field office seized the documents from Pence’s home, the lawyer said.
On Monday, Pence’s legal team returned the boxes to Washington, D.C., and turned them over to the Archives to review the rest of the material for compliance with the Presidential Records Act.
Greg Jacobs, Pence’s archivist, wrote in a letter to the National Archives obtained by CNN that “a small number of documents with classified information” were inadvertently boxed up and moved to the vice president’s home.
“Vice President Pence had no knowledge of the presence of sensitive or classified documents in his private residence,” Jacobs wrote. “Vice President Pence understands the importance of protecting classified and classified information and is ready and willing to cooperate with the National Archives and any appropriate requests.”
The classified material was stored in boxes that first went to Pence’s temporary home in Virginia before being shipped to Indiana, sources said. According to Pence’s attorney, the boxes were not in a secure area, but they were taped shut and were not believed to have been opened after they were filled. After the classified documents were discovered, sources said they were placed inside a safe located in the house.
Pence’s Washington, DC, advocacy group office was also searched, Pence’s attorney said, and no classified material or other records covered by the Presidential Records Act were discovered.
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 also come as Pence prepares for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.
When the FBI searched Trump’s Florida home with a search warrant in August, Pence said he did not keep any classified material when he left office. “No, not to my knowledge,” he told The Associated Press in August.
In November, Pence was asked by ABC News at his home in Indiana if he had received any classified documents from the White House.
“I don’t,” Pence said.
“Well, there was no reason to have classified documents, especially if they were in an unsecured area,” Pence said. “But I will tell you that I think there have to be better ways to handle this than to execute a search warrant on the private residence of the former president of the United States.”
While Pence’s office as a whole has done a great job of turning over any classified material and classified material covered by the Presidential Records Act when he leaves office, these classified documents have been unexpectedly left out of the process. As multiple sources told ClNN, the materials, along with Pence’s personal papers, were removed from the vice president’s residence.
The Vice President’s headquarters at the US Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., has a secure facility for handling classified material along with other security, and classified documents are typically kept there for the Vice President to review.
Some of the boxes were collected at Pence’s Indiana home from the vice president’s residence, while some came from the White House in the final days of the Trump administration, containing the last items that didn’t go through the process during Pence’s tenure. made documents.
The seizure of classified documents at Pence’s residence marks the third time in recent history that a president or vice president has improperly obtained classified material after leaving office. Both Biden and Trump are now being investigated 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-Biden debate suggests a broader systemic problem with classified materials and the Presidential Records Act, which requires official White House records to be turned over to the National Archives. end of administration.
On Friday, the FBI searched Biden’s Wilmington home for additional classified material, an unprecedented search of a sitting president’s home that turned up six additional items with classified information. The search comes after Biden’s lawyers discovered classified materials in Wilmington in November, following an initial discovery of classified documents in Biden’s private office.
Biden’s attorneys say they are cooperating fully with the Justice Department and want to distance themselves from the Trump investigation.
The FBI obtained a search warrant at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in August. Federal investigators took this step because they believed Trump had not returned all the classified material despite the subpoena and were concerned the records were being moved at Mar-a-Lago.
In an interview with Fox Business last week, Pence told Larry Kudlow that he received the president’s daily briefing at the vice president’s residence.
“I get up early. I go to the safe where my military aide would place the classified material. I’m going to take them out and look at them,” Pence said. “I would give them a presentation, and then, honestly, more than Larry, I would put them back in the file that I had taken them in. They would usually go into what was called my burn bag. The military aide had that stuff. classified and then destroyed – the same goes for the materials I receive in the White House.”
Congressional leaders in both parties were shocked by the new revelation that Pence also has classified records in his home.
“I don’t understand it,” said the chairman of the Senate, 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, R-South Carolina. “I don’t believe for one minute that Mike Pence would intentionally compromise national security. But clearly, we have a problem here.”
House Speaker James Comer, Republican of Kentucky, who is investigating Biden’s classified documents, said in a statement that Pence had approached him about classified documents found in his home.
“He’s agreed to cooperate with congressional oversight and any questions we have about it,” Comer said, adding that Pence’s transparency “contradicts” the Biden administration’s response to Congress about classified documents. Comer’s statement did not mention Trump’s classified documents.
But the former president came to Pence’s defense on Tuesday. “Mike Pence is an innocent man. He has never done anything dishonest in his life. Leave him alone!!!” Trump announced this on his page on social networks.