WASHINGTON – Former Vice President Mike Pence’s Indiana home was found with classified documents last week, his lawyers say, the latest in a series of leaks of classified information from the homes of current and former top US officials.

The records “appear to be a small number of classified documents that were inadvertently boxed up and moved to the former vice president’s private home at the end of the last administration,” Pence’s attorney, Greg Jacob, wrote in a letter to the National Archives shared with The Associated Press.

SEE ALSO | Justice Department searched President Biden’s home, found more classified materials

He said Pence was “unaware of the existence of sensitive or classified documents in his private home” before last week’s search and “understands the great importance of protecting sensitive and classified information and is ready and willing to cooperate fully with the National Archives.” and any related request.”

The revelation came as the Justice Department was already investigating the discovery of classified documents at President Joe Biden’s home in Delaware and his former office in Washington, as well as former President Donald Trump’s estate in Florida. Democrat Biden has said he will seek re-election, while Republican Pence is exploring a possible 2024 presidential campaign that would put him in direct competition with his former boss.

The latest revelation plunges Pence, who has previously insisted he followed strict protocols with classified documents, into the debate over the handling of classified material by officials who served at the highest levels of government.

Trump is now under criminal investigation after about 300 classified documents, including top secret, were discovered at Mar-a-Lago. Officials are trying to determine whether Trump or anyone else should be charged with illegally keeping the records or trying to obstruct the months-long criminal investigation. Biden is also under investigation by a special counsel after classified documents from his time as a senator and in the Obama administration were found in his possession.

Trump, who denies his guilt, responded to the new developments on his social media site: “Mike Pence is an innocent man. He never did anything knowingly dishonest in his life. Leave him alone!!!”

While that’s a different story altogether, Pence’s development could either reduce or increase the focus on Trump and Biden, who have sought to downplay the revelations in their homes. The presence of classified documents in the homes of all three men further underscores the federal government’s cumbersome system for storing and protecting the millions of classified documents they create each year.

Pence’s attorney, Jacob, said in his letter that the former vice president “retained an outside attorney experienced with classified documents” to review records stored at his home on Jan. 16 “out of an abundance of caution” after the Biden documents became public.

Jacob said Pence’s documents were immediately stored in a locked safe. According to a subsequent letter from the attorney, dated Jan. 22, FBI agents visited Pence’s residence on the night of Jan. 19 to retrieve documents that were protected. He was still in Washington at the time.

A total of four boxes containing copies of administration documents – two containing “a small number” of classified documents and two containing “courtesy copies of the Vice President’s documents”. Arrangements were made to deliver these boxes to the National Archives on Monday.

The National Archives did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the discovery, which was first reported by CNN.

A spokesman for the Justice Department declined to comment Tuesday, and Pence’s attorney did not immediately respond to an email seeking clarification on the situation.

Pence told The Associated Press in August that he was not taking any classified information with him when he left office.

When asked directly whether he had retained such information, he replied: “Not to my knowledge.”

In an interview with Fox Business in January, Pence described the “very formal process” his office uses to handle classified information, as well as the steps his lawyers took to ensure nothing happened to him.

“Before we left the White House, lawyers on my staff went through all the documents both at the White House and in our offices there and at the vice president’s residence to make sure that any documents that needed to be turned over to the National Archives including Secret documents were handed over. So we went through a very careful process in that regard,” Pence said.

A spokesman for former President Barack Obama cited a 2022 statement from the National Archives that said the agency took control of all of Obama’s records after he left office and was “not aware of any missing boxes of presidential documents from the Obama administration.”

Freddie Ford, former President George W. Bush’s press secretary, told the AP that “all presidential records — classified and unclassified — were turned over to NARA after leaving the White House.”

A spokesman for Bill Clinton said all the classified documents are kept at NARA and have not been found anywhere else since he left office in 2001.

A spokesman said former Vice President Dick Cheney did not leave office with classified materials, and they have never been disclosed since.

Mike Pompeo, who served in the Trump administration as secretary of state and is mulling a 2024 GOP presidential bid, said during a stop in South Carolina in late August that the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago “was a deeply politicized use of the FBI “.

Asked by the AP if he took any classified material with him when he left the administration, Pompeo said, “No,” adding, “Nobody should have classified information that wasn’t in the appropriate place for classified information, at any time, point and point “.

Public records show that Pence and his wife, Karen, purchased the seven-bedroom, 10,300-square-foot home in Carmel, Indiana, in May 2021 — about four months after moving from the vice presidential residence in Washington. The Indiana property is located on a five-acre site north of Indianapolis.

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Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Zeke Miller contributed to this report from Washington.

Copyright © 2023, The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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