A lawyer for former Vice President Mike Pence found about a dozen documents marked classified at Pence’s home in Indiana last week, and he turned those 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 launched an investigation into the documents and how they ended up at Pence’s home in Indiana.
The classified documents were discovered at Pence’s new home in Carmel, Indiana, by a lawyer for Pence in the wake of revelations about classified material found in President Joe Biden’s personal office and residence, the sources said. The revelation comes after Pence has repeatedly said he does not possess 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 discovery on Tuesday.
Pence asked his lawyer to search his home out of an abundance of caution, and the lawyer began going through four boxes stored at Pence’s house last week, finding a small number of documents with classified markings, the sources said.
Pence’s lawyer immediately alerted the National Archives, the sources said. In turn, the Archives inform the Ministry of Justice.
A lawyer for Pence told CNN that the FBI asked to retrieve the classified documents that evening and Pence agreed. Agents from the FBI’s Indianapolis field office took the documents from Pence’s home, the attorney said.
On Monday, Pence’s legal team returned the boxes to Washington and turned them over to the archives to review the rest of the material for compliance with the Presidential Records Act.
IN a letter to the National Archives obtained by CNN, Pence’s archivist Greg Jacob wrote that “a small number of documents bearing classified markings” were inadvertently packaged and transported to the vice president’s home.
“Vice President Pence was unaware 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 investigation.”
The classified materials were stored in boxes that first went to Pence’s temporary home in Virginia before being moved to Indiana, according to the sources. The boxes were not in a secure area but were taped shut and are not believed to have been opened because they were wrapped, according to Pence’s lawyer. After the classified documents were discovered, the sources said they were placed in a safe located in the house.
Pence’s advocacy group in Washington, DC office was also searched, Pence’s lawyer said, and no classified material or other records covered by the Presidential Records Act were found.
The news about Pence comes as special prosecutors investigate the handling of classified documents by both 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 materials in August with a search warrant, Pence said he did not keep any classified materials when he left office. “No, to my knowledge, no,” he said said Associated Press in August.
In November it was Pence asked ABC News at his home in Indiana whether he took classified documents from the White House.
“I’m not,” Pence replied.
“Well, there would be no reason to have classified documents, especially if they were in an unsecured area,” Pence continued. “But I will tell you that I believe there have to be much better ways of solving this problem than executing a search warrant at the personal residence of a former president of the United States.”
While Pence’s vice-presidential office generally did a rigorous job as he left office of sorting through and turning over any classified and unclassified material covered by the Presidential Records Act, those classified documents appear to have been inadvertently left out of the process, as most of the material was packed separately from the vice president’s residence, along with Pence’s personal documents, the sources told ClNN.
The Vice President’s residence at the US Naval Observatory in Washington has a secure classified material handling facility along with other security facilities, and it would be common for classified documents to be there for the Vice President to review.
Some of the boxes at Pence’s home in Indiana 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 items that didn’t make it through the process, the rest of the Pence documents did .
The discovery of classified documents at Pence’s residence marks the third time in recent history that a president or vice president has illegally possessed 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 spat suggests a more systemic problem related to classified material and the Presidential Records Act, which requires official White House records to be turned over to the National Archives at the end of an 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 containing classified markings. The search was conducted after Biden’s lawyers discovered classified materials in Wilmington following the initial discovery of classified documents in Biden’s private brain office in November.
Biden’s lawyers say they are cooperating fully with the Justice Department in trying to distance themselves from the Trump investigation.
The FBI obtained a search warrant for Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in August. Federal investigators took the step because they believed Trump had not turned over all classified material despite the subpoena and were concerned that documents at Mar-a-Lago were being moved.
Last week, Pence told Larry Kudlow in an interview with Fox Business that he received the president’s daily briefing at the vice president’s residence.
“I would get up early. I would go to the safe where my military aide would put these classified materials. I would take them out, I would review them,” Pence said. “I’d get a presentation on them and then, frankly, more often than not Larry, I’d just put them back in the file I got them in. They usually went into what’s called a burn bag, which my military aide would collect and then destroy those classified materials — the same goes for the materials that I would receive at the White House.
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