Classified documents found at Mike Pence’s Indiana home, lawyer says

Mike Pence signs copies of his new autobiography, "So Help Me God," at the Indiana Historical Society, Nov. 22, 2022 (Peter Blanchard/IBJ photo)

Documents with classified markings were discovered in former Vice President Mike Pence’s Carmel residence last week, his lawyer says, the latest in a string of recoveries of confidential information from the homes of current and former top U.S. officials.

The records, which were taken into FBI custody, “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,” Pence’s lawyer, Greg Jacob, wrote in a letter to the National Archives shared with The Associated Press.

He said that Pence had been “unaware of the existence of sensitive or classified documents at his personal residence” until a search last week and “understands the high importance of protecting sensitive and classified information and stands ready and willing to cooperate fully with the National Archives and any appropriate inquiry.”

The revelation came as the Department of Justice was already investigating the discovery of documents with classification markings in President Joe Biden’s home in Delaware and his former Washington office, as well as former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate. Democrat Biden has indicated he will seek reelection, Trump is already a declared candidate, and Republican Pence has been exploring a possible 2024 presidential campaign that would put him direct competition against his former boss.

The newest discovery, which was first reported by CNN, thrusts Pence, who had previously insisted that he followed stringent protocols regarding classified documents, into the debate over the handling of secret materials by officials who have served in the highest ranks of government.

Trump is currently under criminal investigation after roughly 300 documents with classified markings, including at the top-secret level, were discovered at Mar-a-Lago. Officials are trying to determine whether Trump or anyone else should be charged with illegal possession of those records or with trying to obstruct the months-long criminal investigation. Biden is also subject to a special counsel investigation after classified documents from his time as a senator and in the Obama administration were found at his properties.

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

While a very different case, the Pence development could bolster the arguments of Trump and Biden, who have sought to downplay the significance of the discoveries. The presence of secret documents at all three men’s homes further underscores the federal government’s unwieldy system for storing and protecting the millions of classified documents it produces every year.

Pence’s lawyer, Jacob, said in his letter that the former vice president had “engaged outside counsel, with experience in handling classified documents” to review records stored at his home on Jan. 16 “out of an abundance of caution” amid the uproar over the discovery of documents at Biden’s home.

Jacob said the Pence documents with classification markings were immediately secured in a locked safe. According to a follow-up letter from the lawyer dated Jan. 22, FBI agents visited Pence’s residence the night of Jan. 19 at 9:30 p.m. to collect the documents that had been secured. Pence was in Washington for an event at the time.

A total of four boxes containing copies of administration papers — two in which “a small number” of papers bearing classified markings were found, and two containing “courtesy copies of vice presidential papers” — were discovered, according to the letter. Arrangements were made to deliver those boxes to the National Archives Monday.

The National Archives did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the discovery. A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment Tuesday, and a lawyer for Pence did not immediately respond to an email seeking elaboration.

Pence told the Associated Press in August that he did not take any classified information with him when he left office.

Asked directly if he had retained any such information, he said, “No, not to my knowledge.”

In an interview this month with Fox Business, Pence described a “very formal process” used by his office to handle classified information as well as the steps taken by his lawyers to ensure none was taken with him.

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

On Capitol Hill, members of the Senate intelligence committee expressed incredulity over the mishandling of documents by top U.S. officials.

Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas noted that classified documents are only moved out of the committee’s offices in locked bags. “In my book, it’s never permissible to take classified documents outside of a secure facility or by some secure means of transport in between those secure facilities,” he said.

House Intelligence Chairman Mike Turner, a Republican, said he planned to request a formal intelligence review and damage assessment.

“No one is above the law,” added Republican Sen. Rick Scott, another potential 2024 candidate. “I don’t know how anybody ends up with classified documents. … I mean, every classified document I’ve ever seen has a big ‘Classified’ on it.”

Meanwhile, some Republicans pressed for a search of former President Barack Obama’s personal records.

An Obama spokesperson referred to a 2022 statement from the National Archives that said the agency took control of all of his records after he left office and “is not aware of any missing boxes of presidential records from the Obama administration.”

Representatives of former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton and former Vice President Dick Cheney said all of their classified records had been turned over to NARA upon leaving the White House.

Mike Pompeo, who served the Trump administration as secretary of state and is mulling his own 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 AP if he took any classified material with him after leaving the administration, Pompeo replied, “no,” adding, “No one should have classified information out of the appropriate place for classified information, anytime, full stop, period.”

Public records show Pence and his wife, Karen, bought their seven bedroom, 10,300 square foot home in Carmel in May 2021 — about four months after moving out of the vice president’s residence in Washington. The property is spread over a five acre lot just north of Indianapolis.

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15 thoughts on “Classified documents found at Mike Pence’s Indiana home, lawyer says

  1. Why is it that my local library knows when I have a book for one day longer than I should, but The White House has classified documents in and out willy nilly? It sounds like we need a better system of checks and balances when it comes to top secret documents for goodness sakes.

    1. In a former life, I held senior level positions in both the executive and legislative branches of the federal government. Because of my position, I was given security clearances that permitted me to read classified documents and/or listen to discussions containing classified information. In all cases, these activities would take place in SCIFs (Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility).

      Before entering the SCIF, I would have to leave all electronic devices in a basket outside the entry door. If I was provided a document, it would be given to me inside the SCIF and collected from me before I could leave the facility (the same process applied to groups of individuals receiving documents).

      For staff members, the restrictions were strictly enforced and the process of who had access to the information would well-executed. For elected officials, including those in the executive branch and in the legislative branch, I had always assumed it was similarly strict and well enforced. Not I am not so sure.

      I am surprised – no, shocked – that after the recent disclosures of errant documents being found outside of secure facilities no one at either end of Pennsylvania Avenue has said a new process needs to be created and implemented that tracks the chain of custody of every single written document from the lowliest appointed staffers to our elected officials (including the president).

      Each document, every copy of each document, could be stamped with a unique bar code identifying its level of classification and the relevant federal department (or departments) which have jurisdiction over the issue that is documented. Each individual who has been given a security clearance should also be assigned a unique bar code as a part of their credentials (the code would also specify the level of the individual’s security clearance). Whenever and wherever a document is provided to anyone, the respective bar codes are recorded with the time and date. When the documents are returned to their rightful place, the bar codes are again recorded with the time and date.

      Such a system would not be difficult to establish or maintain. It is not much of a leap beyond the key fobs many office workers are given to gain access to their buildings, elevators, and other business-related locations. All we need to make is happen is someone in a position of power – a congressman, a senator, a president – to propose it.

    1. I bet they all have them, even if unknowingly. The question should be, why are they searching all of these homes and shouldn’t we be searching House and Senate members, on both sides of the isle.

    2. Pence and Biden invited the FBI to pick up/search. The other guy actively obstructed any search going so far to move stuff around.

  2. It’s starting to look like all kinds of people have inadvertently retained classified documents. That’s a problem, of course, but it helps to give a better understanding of what cases are similar and which ones are different. Biden, as we have seen, self-disclosed the existence of the documents and returned them, then invited investigators to come look for more. Pence’s situation seems relatively similar, as apparently are most cases of documents turning up where they’re not supposed to be. That’s why few cases like these end up with criminal charges — because they are inadvertent, with no ill intent. Trump, on the other hand, apparently actively tried to hang onto his documents, claiming they’re “mine,” not cooperating with requests to get them all back to their rightful places, and giving them up under protest only when required by a court-ordered search. He still thinks they’re “mine,” in fact. That’s why we could reasonably end up with charges against Trump, but not Biden or Pence.

    1. Unfortunately, “reasonable” expectations (and yours are) will not factor into this. Political pressure will result in “black and white” declarations…which will be false equivalencies, and also par for the course with the former President and House Republicans.

  3. Steve B offers a reasonable and thoughtful explanation of the documents in different locations where they should not be. Is it too much to hope for a majority in Congress to be equally reasonable and thoughtful?

    1. “Reasonable” and “thoughtful” LOL. Partisan and one-sided, but exactly what we expect from people who think AP and WaPo are news sources. And a steadily diminishing share of the American public believes this, which terrifies the swamp that “reasonable and thoughtful” people at IBJ so steadfastly defend.

      Not that anyone takes any of these raids seriously. They’re just smoke and mirrors from the uniparty, after the Midterms successfully rigged mostly safe, establishment-friendly candidates so they could begin preparations to groom a replacement for the increasingly infirm man currently in office.

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