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Classified documents found at Pence's Indiana home

Former Vice President Mike Pence, shown here last month in Rock Hill, S.C., stored a "small number" of documents bearing classified markings in his Indiana home after having been "inadvertently" boxed up. They have been collected by the FBI.
Meg Kinnard
/
AP
Former Vice President Mike Pence, shown here last month in Rock Hill, S.C., stored a "small number" of documents bearing classified markings in his Indiana home after having been "inadvertently" boxed up. They have been collected by the FBI.

Updated January 24, 2023 at 7:25 PM ET

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" were collected by FBI officials from his Indiana home, according to letters from Pence's representatives to the National Archives and Records Administration.

In a letter dated Jan. 18 to Kate Dillon McClure, the acting director of NARA's White House Liaison Division, Greg Jacob, a spokesman for Pence, wrote the documents were discovered Jan. 16 when Pence, "out of an abundance of caution" following the classified documents recovered at the home of President Biden, "engaged outside counsel, with experience in handling classified documents, to review records stored in his personal home."

Jacob said that the counsel identified a small number of documents that could potentially contain sensitive or classified information interspersed throughout the records, but added the counsel was unable to provide an exact description of the folders or briefing materials.

"Vice President Pence immediately secured those documents in a locked safe pending further direction on proper handling from the National Archives," the letter stated.

Following this letter, the Justice Department on the evening of Jan. 19 requested "direct possession" of the letters and collected them from his safe late that evening.

"The transfer was facilitated by the Vice President's personal attorney, who has experience in handling classified documents, and who conducted the prior review on January 16," Jacob said in a second letter, this one addressed to William Bosanko, NARO's chief operating officer.

Pence is widely seen as a Republican president contender in 2024 but has not yet formally announced his candidacy.

The discovery of classified material in his home follows similar discoveries at the personal homes of former President Donald Trump and Biden. Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed special counsels to examine those two instances, citing Trump's presidential candidacy and Biden's likely run for reelection.

In an interview Jan. 11 with CBS, prior to the discovery of the documents, Pence said his staff "reviewed all of the materials in our office and in our residence to ensure that there were no classified materials that left the White House or remained in our possession. And I, I remain confident that that was done in a thorough and careful way."

Republicans were quick to comment on the development

House Committee on Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., applauded Pence in statement Tuesday while remaining critical of Biden's handling of his situation. Similar to what happened with the Pence discovery, Biden's lawyers said the National Archives was contacted after classified documents were found.

Pence, meanwhile, also reached out to Comer. "Former Vice President Pence's transparency stands in stark contrast to Biden White House staff who continue to withhold information from Congress and the American people," Comer said.

Two weeks ago, Comer accused the National Archives of operating under a political bias because of the agency's "inconsistent treatment of recovering classified records held by former President Trump and President Biden," he said in a Jan. 10 letter to NARA Acting Archivist Debra Steidel Wall. The letter — sent after classified materials were found at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, D.C., earlier this month — also requested the agency turn over all documents and communications between the Archives and the White House as well with the Justice Department and Biden's attorneys related to the documents' discovery.

Trump defended his former second in command over Truth Social Tuesday.

"Mike Pence is an innocent man," Trump wrote. "He never did anything knowingly dishonest in his life. Leave him alone!!!"

A call for a third special counsel

In addition to the two special counsels Garland has already assigned to investigate Trump's and Biden's handling of classified documents, at least one politician is calling for one more.

Republican Rep. Don Bacon told NBC's Meet the Press NOW Tuesday that he supports the idea of a third special counsel assignment and called the series of classified document incidents an "epidemic of senior leaders" on both sides of the aisle.

"It shows carelessness, negligence, and I think Americans should be mad," he said. "That's why it has to be researched and investigated."

Other lawmakers are focusing on what they see as a problem with the system of handling sensitive information. Republican Sen. Kevin Cramer from North Dakota wondered: "Can we all agree it shouldn't happen? And can we come up with a system that guarantees it won't happen again going forward?"

In an interview on SiriusXM POTUS Politics' The Briefing with Steve Scully, he said that he knew "that this should be just built in discipline, but we've gotta institutionalize that discipline so that there's some sort of a process where somebody other than the interns are packing your boxes before you leave."

Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina echoed similar sentiments over Twitter. He went as far as to clear all three leaders of intentional wrongdoing.

"I don't believe there were 'sinister motives' with regards to the handling of classified information by President Biden, President Trump, or Vice President Pence," Graham wrote. "We have a classified information problem which needs to be fixed."

Copyright 2023 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Dustin Jones is a reporter for NPR's digital news desk. He mainly covers breaking news, but enjoys working on long-form narrative pieces.