The discovery of classified documents at the home of former Vice President Mike Pence is complicating efforts by congressional Republicans to coordinate their lines of attack on President Biden’s handling of similar materials from his time as second-in-command.
Pence’s team revealed on Tuesday that his lawyers conducted a search of his Indiana home cautiously following reports that confidential documents were found at Biden’s home and a former Washington, DC office that he used after leaving the White House in 2017.
The revelation came just as Republicans in Congress were digging into Biden, portraying the president as careless and possibly jeopardizing sensitive information.
But the similarities between how Pence and Biden each handled their respective cases, with the lawyers swiftly briefing the Justice Department and the National Archives, could soften some of those GOP attacks on the White House.
“The bottom line is, I don’t know how that happened. We have to get to the bottom of it,” Sen. Lindsey Graham (RS.C.) told reporters Tuesday. “I don’t believe for one minute that Mike Pence is intentionally trying to compromise national security.”
“And so what has become a political issue for Republicans is now a national security issue for the country,” Graham said.
Greg Jacob, an attorney representing Pence, wrote to the National Archives on Jan. 18 to inform them that Pence had directed a search two days earlier that had unearthed two boxes of some classified marked materials.
FBI officials took possession of those two boxes on Jan. 19, as well as two other boxes with copies of administration records, Jacob said.
“The additional records appear to be a small number of documents bearing classified markings that were inadvertently boxed up and transported to the former vice president’s personal home at the end of the last administration,” Jacob wrote. “Vice President Pence was unaware of the existence of any sensitive or confidential documents in his personal residence.”
It appeared Tuesday that both Democrats and Republicans had embraced the revelation.
The development has been good news for the White House, which has been gradually revealing more information about additional documents found in the Biden Delaware home over the past two weeks.
And he dismissed growing criticism over why the administration didn’t disclose the matter to the public when the documents were first discovered months ago, citing an ongoing investigation.
In recent months, Pence had repeatedly insisted that he not take any classified materials with him when he left office. On Jan. 12, three days after Biden’s first discovery was made public in a CBS News report, Pence spoke on Fox Business about how he knew from personal experience “the attention that should be paid to those materials when you’re in office and after leaving office.
White House officials declined to comment on Pence’s revelations on Tuesday. But Democrats will now be able to compare the Biden and Pence cases favorably, noting that both men appeared taken aback by the findings and asked lawyers to cooperate with the Justice Department and the National Archives.
“Politically, this makes it difficult if not impossible for the GOP to criticize Biden, without hurting Pence; the situations look very similar,” Joyce White Vance, a law professor and legal analyst on MSNBC, tweeted.
It seemed unlikely as of Tuesday that some Republicans would give in to their criticism of Biden, signaling they would pursue their investigation.
Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, said Pence reached out to the jury Tuesday about documents found at his home and “agreed to cooperate fully with the oversight of Congress and any questions we have on the matter.
Comer requested documents uncovered by Biden’s team, document communications between the Biden White House and the Justice Department, and a list of visitors to the Biden Delaware home who were vetted by the Secret Service.
The White House in a letter Monday said it would review Comer’s requests and seek to satisfy “legitimate oversight interests.”
“Former Vice President Pence’s transparency stands in stark contrast to Biden’s White House staff who continue to withhold information from Congress and the American people,” Comer said in a statement.
Former President Trump, who is under a Justice Department investigation for potential mishandling of classified documents after he left office, also sought to acquit Pence on Tuesday.
“Mike Pence is an innocent man. He has never done anything deliberately dishonest in his life. Leave him alone!!!” Trump posted on his Truth Social platform.
The FBI searched Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Florida estate in August after he and his team failed to voluntarily hand over sensitive government files following an initial review in January. The January search had unearthed dozens of files marked “classified,” “secret,” and “top secret.”
The August search then led to a legal battle between Trump’s lawyers and the federal government, with the former president’s team trying to prevent prosecutors from reviewing documents they had taken from Mar-a-Lago.
But in Pence’s case, even Democrats appeared less interested in attacking Trump’s vice president than in pointing out the differences between how Pence and Biden handled the discovery of classified materials in their homes compared to Trump.
“This discovery by Pence’s attorney is a very interesting reinforcement of the contrast between how Biden and Pence are properly cooperating and returning documents versus Trump stealing them, hiding them and obstructing justice in their return,” he said. David Brock, president of Facts First USA.
The fact that Biden, Pence and Trump all now have classified documents found in their residences could mean that three of the most recognizable names running for and potentially the presidency in 2024 are now facing the same controversy.
Separate special councils are reviewing Biden and Trump’s handling of confidential documents.
And while Democrats hope Trump’s inability to cooperate with federal officials remains, Pence’s revelations could eventually force lawmakers to focus more broadly on the process.
Sen. Kevin Cramer (RN.D.) said Tuesday he was impressed by Pence’s interview with Fox Business, in which Pence detailed every step of the process he was involved in his viewing of classified documents during his time as vice president, which included Pence telling the cable that some materials were put in a burn bag after he saw them.
“It felt like a nice routine to make sure you don’t hang on to things. … A good routine would be a good way to avoid problems like this,” Cramer said, noting that “clearly” this wasn’t enough.