A “small number” of classified documents were discovered last week at former Vice President Mike Pence’s Indiana home, according to two letters Pence’s counsel sent to the National Archives obtained by NBC News on Tuesday.
The lawyer, Greg Jacob, said the documents were discovered on Jan. 16 after Pence asked “outside counsel” to look for records bearing classified markings following the recent news about documents found in President Joe Biden’s Delaware home.
Jacob, who was a top lawyer in Pence’s vice presidential office and now represents him in matters pertaining to the National Archives, said the team identified a “small number of documents that could potentially contain sensitive or classified information” while it was reviewing records stored in his personal home.
Jacob said the documents were “inadvertently boxed and transported” to Pence’s home at the end of the Trump administration. Pence “was unaware of the existence of sensitive or classified documents at his personal residence,” Jacob said.
The discovery was first reported by CNN.
Pence’s team “immediately” secured the classified documents in a locked safe, Jacob said.
“Vice President Pence 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,” he said.
On the evening of Jan. 19, after the National Archives alerted the Justice Department to the records, FBI agents came to Pence’s home to retrieve the documents, Jacob said. He said Pence was in Washington, D.C., to attend the March for Life at the time, but “immediately agreed” to the process.
The transfer was facilitated by Pence’s personal attorney, who has experience in handling classified documents and was involved with the Jan. 16 discovery.
Pence spokesman Devin O’Malley later told NBC News that “no potential classified documents” were found at the offices of Pence’s organization Advancing American Freedom after Pence’s team searched the offices and the former vice president’s home in Indiana.
O’Malley said that a total of four boxes — two containing papers with classified markings and two with courtesy copies of vice presidential papers — were hand-delivered by Pence’s legal team to the National Archives and Records Administration on Monday.
News about Pence’s documents comes after records with classified markings from the Obama administration were found at Biden’s Delaware residence and a Washington office he used after he was vice president. Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Robert Hur to serve as a special counsel to review the material. House Republicans have also opened up investigations into the matter.
Garland on Tuesday declined to answer questions from reporters on Pence’s records following an unrelated news conference.
Asked about the Pence documents, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said the Justice Department must “treat everybody the same who has misplaced classified documents.”
Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner and Vice Chair Marco Rubio, meanwhile, told reporters that they want briefings on the matter from the Intelligence Community.
“I kind of thought holy heck,” Warner, D-Va., said. “And I do wonder how many other formers?”
“What the hell’s going on around here is my reaction,” Rubio, R-Fla., said.
Rubio said he wants answers from Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines, who is scheduled to appear before the committee on Wednesday for an unrelated matter. “But there’s no way this topic doesn’t come up, and she’ll be aware of that,” Rubio added.
A senior administration official told NBC News that the Intelligence Community’s damage assessment regarding Trump and Biden’s mishandling of classified material has not been completed.
The White House Counsel’s Office said this week that it was reviewing recent requests from House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., related to Biden’s handling of classified documents. The White House also said it was reviewing requests from House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Jordan, R-Ohio.
In a statement Tuesday, Comer said Pence reached out to the panel about classified documents found at his Indiana residence.
“He has agreed to fully cooperate with congressional oversight and any questions we have about the matter,” Comer said, adding that he believes Pence’s “transparency stands in stark contrast to Biden White House staff who continue to withhold information from Congress and the American people.”
Earlier this month, Pence told CBS News in an interview that he was “confident” his staff made sure that no classified materials during his time in office remain in his possession.
Prior to Hur’s appointment, Pence also criticized the Justice Department for what he described as a double standard between Biden’s records and the ones found at former President Donald Trump’s Florida home last year. Garland also appointed a special counsel to oversee the DOJ’s investigation of Trump’s records as well as his role in the Jan. 6 attack.
“Whether it be the administration or whether it be the media papering over this, look, it was a massive overreach by the FBI, a massive overreaction this summer to execute a search warrant at the personal residence of a former president of the United States, and I said so,” Pence said during an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt this month.
“But having now created that standard and now abandoned that standard when the current president of the United States is found to have had classified documents in his possession after leaving office, I think it just, I have no words right now. It’s just incredibly frustrating to me,” Pence added.
In a statement on his Truth Social website, Trump reacted to Tuesday’s revelations by saying: “Mike Pence is an innocent man. He never did anything knowingly dishonest in his life. Leave him alone!!!”
When reached by NBC News, the offices of three former presidents referred to an October statement issued by the National Archives that said it had “assumed physical and legal custody” of presidential records from their administrations.
The statement, issued after Trump accused his predecessors of mishandling classified documents, said that presidential records from the administrations of Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush and Ronald Reagan were “securely moved” into temporary facilities that the National Archives leased from the General Services Administration when those presidents left office.
In a statement Tuesday, Obama’s office said his classified records were submitted to the National Archives when he left office. “NARA continues to assume physical and legal custody of President Obama’s materials to date,” his office said.
George W. Bush’s office also said that all of his “presidential records — classified and unclassified — were turned over to the National Archives” when he left the White House.
Clinton’s office said that he had “properly turned over” all of his classified materials to the National Archives in accordance with the Presidential Records Act.