An attorney for former Vice President Mike Pence discovered about a dozen documents marked classified at Pence’s Indiana home last week, and he has 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 Indiana home.
The classified documents were discovered at Pence’s new home in Carmel, Indiana, by an attorney for Pence amid disclosures of classified material discovered at 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 clear what the documents deal with, how sensitive or classified they are.
Pence’s team briefed Congressional leaders and relevant committees on Tuesday about the discovery.
Pence asked his lawyer, who has experience dealing with classified material, to conduct the search of his home with great caution. Sources said attorney Matt Morgan last week began searching four boxes stored at Pence’s home and found a small number of documents with secret markings.
Pence’s attorney immediately alerted the National Archives, the sources said. The archive in turn informed the Ministry of Justice.
A lawyer for Pence told CNN that the FBI asked for the documents with secret markings to be picked up that evening, and Pence agreed. Agents from the FBI’s Indianapolis field office picked up the documents from Pence’s home, the attorney said.
On Monday, Pence’s legal team drove the boxes back to Washington, DC and turned them over to the archives to review the rest of the material for Presidential Records Act compliance.
In a letter to the National Archives, obtained by CNN, Pence’s archives representative, Greg Jacob, wrote that a “small number of documents bearing secret markings” were accidentally bagged and transported to the vice president’s home.
“Vice President Pence was unaware of the existence of sensitive or classified documents in his private home,” Jacob wrote. “Vice President Pence understands the 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, according to the sources. The boxes weren’t in a secure area, but they were taped down and believed not to have been opened since they were packed, according to Pence’s attorney. Once the secret documents were discovered, the sources said they were kept in a safe at the house.
Pence’s advocacy group in Washington, DC The office was also searched, Pence’s attorney said, and no classified information or other records covered by the Presidential Records Act were discovered.
The news about Pence comes as special counsel is investigating 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 in the Republican nomination for president in 2024.
Since the FBI issued a search warrant at Trump’s Florida home for classified material in August, Pence has said he did not retain 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 Indiana home if he had taken any classified White House documents.
“I didn’t,” Pence replied.
“Well, there’s no need to have classified documents, especially if they’re in an unprotected area,” Pence continued. “But I will tell you that I believe there had to be a much better way to solve this problem than to execute a search warrant on the private home of a former President of the United States.”
While Pence’s vice presidential office generally did a rigorous job when he left office, sorting and releasing classified material and unclassified material falling under the Presidential Records Act, these classified documents appear to have inadvertently slipped through the process, because most of the materials were packaged separately from the vice president’s apartment, 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 material along with other security measures and it would be customary for classified documents to be there for the Vice President to review.
Some of the boxes at Pence’s Indiana home were packed from the vice president’s residence, while some arrived from the White House in the final days of the Trump administration, including last-minute things that didn’t get through the rest of Pence’s documents did.
The discovery of classified documents in Pence’s apartment marks the third time in recent history that a president or vice president has possessed inappropriately classified material after leaving office. Both Biden and Trump are now being investigated by separate special investigators for their handling of classified information.
Sources familiar with the process say that Pence’s discovery of classified documents in the wake of the Trump-Biden controversy would point to a more systemic problem related to classified material and the Presidential Records Act, which requires official White House records to be handed over to the United States National Archives mandates the end of an administration.
On Friday, the FBI searched Biden’s Wilmington residence for additional classified information, an unprecedented search of the home of an incumbent president that found six additional items of classified information. The search was conducted after Biden’s attorneys discovered classified material in Wilmington following the first discovery of classified documents at Biden’s private think tank in November.
Biden’s attorneys say they are working fully with the Justice Department to draw a distinction on the Trump investigation.
The FBI obtained a search warrant to search Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in August. Federal investigators took the move because they believed Trump had failed to turn over all classified materials despite a subpoena and feared records at Mar-a-Lago would be moved.
Last week, in an interview with Fox Business, Pence Larry Kudlow said 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 keep these classified materials. I would pull them out and check them out,” Pence said. “I was given them a presentation and then, frankly, Larry, I just put it back in the file that I was given it in. Military aides would collect and then destroy these classified materials — the same goes for materials I receive at the White House would.”
Congressional leaders from both parties were stunned by the new revelations that Pence was also in possession of secret records at his home.
“I don’t get it,” said Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin.
“The bottom line is I don’t know how this happened, we need to get to the bottom of this,” said Senator Lindsey Graham, a Republican from South Carolina. “I don’t believe for a minute that Mike Pence is trying to intentionally endanger national security. But we clearly have a problem here.”
Home Oversight Chairman James Comer, a Kentucky Republican who is investigating Biden’s classified documents, said in a statement that Pence contacted him about the classified documents found in his home.
“He has agreed to fully cooperate with Congressional oversight and any questions we have on this matter,” Comer said, adding that Pence’s transparency is “in stark contrast” to the Biden administration’s response to Congress about the secret documents stand. Comer’s statement made no mention of Trump’s classified documents.
However, the former president came to Pence’s defense on Tuesday. “Mike Pence is an innocent man. He has never done anything knowingly dishonest in his life. Leave him alone!!!” Trump posted on his social media page.