Aides to former vice president Mike Pence found a small number of documents with classified markings at his home in Indiana during a search last week, according to an adviser to Pence.
The documents were “inadvertently boxed and transported” to Pence’s home at the end of President Trump’s administration, Greg Jacob, Pence’s representative for dealing with records related to the presidency, wrote in a letter to the National Archives.
The discovery of the classified documents in Pence’s home was reported earlier by CNN.
The letter, dated Jan. 18, said that the former vice president was unaware of the existence of the documents and reiterated that he took the handling of classified materials seriously and wanted to help.
Jacob wrote that Pence relied on an outside lawyer after classified documents were found in recent days at the residence and former private office of President Biden. Jacob also said the lawyer could not specify anything more about the documents because the lawyer had stopped looking once it was clear the documents had classified markings.
“Counsel identified a small number of documents that could potentially contain sensitive or classified information interspersed throughout the records,” Jacob wrote of the search, which he said was conducted Jan. 16. A person familiar with the matter said the lawyer who conducted the search previously worked with Pence in the Trump administration and had a security clearance while there.
“Vice President Pence immediately secured those documents in a locked safe pending further direction on proper handling from the National Archives,” Jacob wrote.
In a second letter dated four days later, Jacob wrote that despite having a conversation with archives officials on Jan. 19 about procedures for obtaining records from former presidents and vice presidents, the Justice Department that evening “bypassed the standard procedures and requested direct possession” of the documents.
Pence was in Washington attending the March for Life anti-abortion event, Jacob wrote, but he still granted permission to turn over the documents. Jacob also wrote that there were two boxes in which the records with classified markings had been found, as well as two additional boxes with copies of administration papers.
He said he would personally bring those boxes to the National Archives on Jan. 23. An archives spokesperson declined a request for comment.
Pence’s transition out of office was notoriously bumpy, after Trump spent weeks pressuring him to effectively overturn the results of the 2020 election so that Trump could stay in power.
Still, the disclosure brings more questions about how classified material is handled at the top levels of government at a moment when Biden and Trump are both subjects of special counsel investigations on the matter.
At a news conference Tuesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland had no comment when asked about the retrieval of the documents from Pence’s house. He declined to say whether the Justice Department’s involvement in the matter signaled an impending criminal investigation that might warrant referral to a special counsel.
Trump has been under federal investigation for nearly a year for how hundreds of documents with classified markings, as well as hundreds of pages of presidential records, wound up at his private club and residence, Mar-a-Lago.
Trump resisted the urging of aides to give boxes of documents with unknown contents to the National Archives. When he eventually turned over 15 boxes, archives officials found hundreds of pages with classified markings. Trump later faced a grand jury subpoena to turn over any remaining documents, and one of his lawyers wrote a statement saying everything had been turned over. When investigators found evidence that was not the case, the FBI searched his club in August.
Biden, by contrast, has cooperated since the discovery of documents at his nonprofit offices and then his home. However, he and the White House have faced questions about the timeline of the discoveries and the level of transparency with the public about when documents were found at Biden’s home.
On Friday, the FBI searched Biden’s home for about 13 hours and found six additional items that were taken, his lawyer said. The president granted access to his Delaware house.
Jacob, who was Pence’s general counsel while he was vice president, stressed cooperation in the letter to the National Archives.
Still, Pence and his aides had previously said they were confident that the vice president had not retained any classified documents after he left office.
The person familiar with the matter said that the documents in question were largely previously held at the vice president’s residence at the Naval Observatory. Officials began briefing relevant congressional committee officials on Tuesday, the person said.
Pence is considering a presidential campaign for 2024, in a primary in which Trump is so far the only declared candidate. Biden has not yet said whether he will run for reelection, but signs point to a likely candidacy for a second term.