Former US Vice President Mike Pence turned over two boxes of records with classified markings that were found at his Indiana home to the FBI in the latest high-profile instance of a high-ranking official potentially mishandling secret documents.
Mr Pence, 63, said he found the records after the bombshell revelation earlier this month that President Joe Biden stashed classified records dating to his vice presidency at a DC office and next to his classic car at his Delaware home — sparking a special counsel investigation, reported the New York Post.
Allegedly secret files from his time in office were also found at properties owned by Donald Trump.
The FBI took the records from Mr Pence’s home on January 19, while he was in Washington to attend the annual anti-abortion March for Life, his office disclosed on Tuesday.
The Justice Department’s National Security Division and the FBI have launched a review of about a dozen documents that were in Pence’s possession, according to CNN, which first reported on the find.
Mr Pence’s lawyer Greg Jacob informed the National Archives of the discovery in a January 18 letter provided to The New York Post — with the notification coming two days after Mr Jacob said the documents were found.
“The additional records appear to be a small number of documents bearing classified markings that were inadvertently boxed and transported to the personal home of the former Vice President at the end of the last Administration,” Mr Jacob wrote to Archives official Kate McClure.
Mr Pence is a possible 2024 presidential candidate — and according to press reports lacked a permanent residence and was living with relatives immediately after he left office as vice president in January 2021.
‘Small number of documents’
Mr Jacob wrote to Ms McClure that “following press reports of classified documents at the personal home of President Biden, out of an abundance of caution, on Monday, January 16, Vice President Pence engaged outside counsel, with experience in handling classified documents, to review records stored in his personal home.
“Counsel identified a small number of documents that could potentially contain sensitive or classified information interspersed throughout the records. Vice President Pence’s counsel, however, is unable to provide an exact description of the folders or briefing materials that may contain sensitive or classified information because counsel did not review the contents of the documents once an indicator of potential classification was identified.
“Vice President Pence immediately secured those documents in a locked safe pending further direction on proper handling from the National Archives.”
In a January 22 letter to a different Archives official, Jay Bosanko, Mr Jacob wrote that “on the evening of January 19, the Department of Justice bypassed the standard procedures and requested direct possession.
Even though the Vice President was in Washington DC to attend the March for Life, he still immediately agreed in the interest of ensuring an expeditious collection. FBI agents came to the Indiana residence of Vice President Pence at 9.30pm to collect the documents that had been secured in his safe.”
Mr Jacob also wrote that “two boxes in which a small number of papers appearing to bear classified markings [were] found.”
Mr Pence’s lawyer wrote that he would provide additional boxes without classified markings to the Archives for review.
The report comes amid a mushrooming controversy over Mr Biden’s handling of classified material — with sensitive items dating back to his time as a senator and vice president found in recent months at his home in Wilmington and a vacant office he used at a DC think tank.
Under the federal Presidential Records Act, presidential and vice presidential records must be turned over to the National Archives at the end of each administration.
Pence joins Trump and Biden in having secret docs
Mr Biden’s discovery of classified material was kept secret ahead of the November midterm elections in a move Republicans have slammed — as that election focused in part on former President Donald Trump’s handling of sensitive material.
The FBI raided Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on August 8 to retrieve documents after the former president insisted he had a right to keep some of the files. Attorney-General Merrick Garland on November 18 appointed prosecutor Jack Smith to serve as a special counsel to determine if Trump violated any laws.
Mr Biden said in a September 18 interview with CBS program 60 Minutes that Mr Trump had been “totally irresponsible” in holding on to the papers after leaving office in January 2021.
“I thought, ‘What data was in there that may compromise sources and methods?’ By that I mean names of people who helped. … And it just totally irresponsible,” Mr Biden said of Mr Trump.
Mr Garland appointed special counsel Robert Hur this month to investigate Mr Biden’s handling of documents.
Mr Biden’s lawyers initially found approximately 10 classified documents on November. 2 while clearing out his stately former office at the Penn Biden Centre in Washington.
Some of them reportedly were marked “top secret” and deal with Iran and Ukraine.
Additional classified documents were found on December 20 next to Mr Biden’s prized 1967 Corvette Stingray in his Wilmington garage and a series of additional searches, including on Friday by the FBI, turned up other records in the home.
This story appeared in the New York Post and is reproduced with permission.