Former Vice President Mike Pence said Friday that he had been previously unaware classified documents were at his Indiana home but that “mistakes were made” and he takes full responsibility.
Pence said during remarks at Florida International University that he had thought “out of an abundance of caution, it would be appropriate to review (his) personal records” kept at his Carmel, Indiana, residence after revelations that classified documents had been found at President Joe Biden’s private office and residence dating to his time as vice president.
CNN first reported that a lawyer for Pence found last week about a dozen documents marked as classified at the former vice president’s home. The former vice president had directed his lawyer, Matt Morgan, who has experience handling classified material, to conduct the search.
The discovery came after Pence had repeatedly said he did not have any classified documents in his possession.
Pence said Friday that they determined there was a “small number of documents marked classified or sensitive interspersed in my personal papers,” and that they “immediately” secured the documents. They then notified the National Archives, turned over the documents to the FBI and communicated the finding to Congress, he said.
“And while I was not aware that those classified documents were in our personal residence, let me be clear: Those classified documents should not have been in my personal residence. Mistakes were made. And I take full responsibility,” he said.
The FBI and the Justice Department’s National Security Division have launched a review of the documents and how they ended up in Pence’s house. It is not yet clear what the documents are related to or their level of sensitivity or classification.
Classified records are supposed to be stored in secure locations. And under the Presidential Records Act, White House records are supposed to go to the National Archives when an administration ends.
Pence said Friday that there was a “thorough review” of all the documents held in the Office of the Vice President and the vice president’s DC residence at the end of the Trump-Pence administration. “And I’m confident that was conducted in a professional manner,” he said.
He also said that he directed his counsel to “fully cooperate” in any investigation and later told reporters: “I welcome the work of the Department of Justice in this case.”
Biden’s team discovered classified documents at his Washington, DC, think tank office in November. Biden has said they immediately notified the National Archives, which then notified the Department of Justice, but the discovery was not made public for weeks. Materials were also found at Biden’s Wilmington, Delaware, residence.
The FBI retrieved hundreds of documents from former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence and resort last summer after he failed to comply with a subpoena to hand them over.
A special counsel has been named to both the Biden and Trump cases.
In the wake of the classified document discoveries at Pence, Biden and Trump’s homes, the National Archives formally asked former presidents and vice presidents to re-check their personal records for any classified documents or other presidential records, CNN first reported.
“I think now’s the time when we just ought to rededicate ourselves to greater diligence,” Pence told reporters on Friday, adding that he would “welcome a broader discussion in the Congress, and in the public debate about classified documents.”
This story has been updated with additional details.