Classified documents keep showing up where they shouldn’t be.
Discovery of documents with secrecy vultures in was Home of Vice President Mike Pence Indiana has an opening secret materials to President Joe Biden Delaware House and former office — and confiscation last year hundreds of classified documents from Mar-a-Lago, former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence.
A look at the similarities and differences between the different situations:
HOW MANY CLASSIFIED DOCUMENTS ARE WE TALKING ABOUT?
PENCE: A “small number of classified documents” were discovered last week at Pence’s home north of Indianapolis, Pence’s attorney, Greg Jacob, wrote in a Jan. 18 letter to the National Archives and Records Administration, provided to The Associated Press.
In all, Jacobs said, four boxes of copies of administration documents were found — two that contained a “small number” of classified documents and two that contained “courtesy copies of the vice president’s papers.” The revelation came nearly two years after Pence left office.
BIDEN: It’s unclear exactly how many classified documents were found in Biden’s home and former office. Richard Sauber, a special adviser to the president, said earlier this month that “a small number of classified documents” were discovered on Nov. 2, 2022, in a locked cabinet at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement. tank in Washington as Biden’s personal lawyers cleaned out the offices.
Sauber said on Jan. 12 that a second batch of classified documents — a “small number,” he said — was found in a storage room in Biden’s garage near Wilmington, Delaware, along with one document in Biden’s personal library at his Via a few days later, Sauber clarified that six pages had been found in the library, not one.
During a nearly 13-hour search on January 20, FBI agents searching Biden’s home in Delaware found six more items containing classified documents and seized some of his handwritten notes, the president’s lawyer, Bob Bauer, said Saturday.
TRUMP: About 300 classified documents — including some at the top secret level — have been removed from Trump since he left office in January 2021.
In January 2022. National Archives got 15 boxes documents, telling Justice Department officials that they contained “a lot” of classified material. In August, FBI agents took more than 33 boxes and containers a total of 11,000 documents from Mar-a-Lago, including about 100 with classification marks, found in the vault and office.
HOW QUICKLY WERE THE SECRET DOCUMENTS TRANSFERRED?
PENCE: Jacobs said the tapes were found on January 16th, kept in a locked safe and retrieved by FBI agents on January 19th. Four boxes of papers were delivered to the archive on January 23.
BIDEN: After the materials were discovered at the think tank on Nov. 2, Biden’s personal lawyers immediately alerted the White House counsel’s office, which notified the National Archives, Sauber said. The next day, the documents were handed over to the archive.
Biden’s personal lawyers then began looking into other places where the records might have been sent after Biden left the vice-presidential post in 2017. They found the documents on December 20 in his garage in Wilmington and on January 11 and 12 in his home library.
Sauber said the Justice Department was “immediately notified” and took custody of the records.
On January 20, Biden voluntarily allowed the FBI to search his Wilmington home for additional documents.
TRUMP: A Trump spokesman told the National Archives in December 2021 that the president’s papers were found at Mar-a-Lago nearly a year after Trump left office. In January, 15 boxes of documents containing classified materials were transferred to the archive.
A few months later, investigators from the Department of Justice and the FBI visited Mar-a-Lago to get more information about the classified material being taken to Florida. Federal officials have served a subpoena to obtain some documents believed to be in the estate.
In August 2022, FBI search agents recovered 33 boxes from Mar-a-Lago while executing a warrant that indicated they were investigating possible crimes, including the willful withholding of national defense information and attempting to obstruct a federal investigation.
The search was conducted after Trump’s lawyers filed an affidavit that all government documents had been returned.
WHAT IS THE ORDER OF POTENTIAL CHARGES?
PENCE AND BIDEN: There is no indication that they knew the records existed before they were found and released.
It appears that both parties turned over the records quickly, with no intention of concealment. This is important because the Justice Department has historically looked for willfulness or intent to misappropriate state secrets when deciding whether to prosecute.
In Biden’s case, even if the Justice Department found the case to be prosecutable based on the evidence, his legal counsel’s office concluded that the president is immune from prosecution while in office. Former special counsel Robert Mueller cited the guidance when he decided not to rule on whether to indict Trump as part of the investigation into coordination between the Trump campaign in 2016 and Russia.
On January 12, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to investigate the discovery of documents from Biden. The investigation will be led by Robert Hur, a former Trump-appointed US attorney in the state of Maryland.
TRUMP: Former president may face impeachment for obstruction in long-running fight to return documents. And since he is no longer in office, he will not be immune from possible prosecution.
Garland was appointed in November jack smith, a veteran war crimes prosecutor with experience in government corruption investigations to lead the investigation into Trump’s possession of classified documents, as well as key aspects of a separate investigation into the January 6, 2021 uprising and attempts to overturn the 2020 election.
WHAT SHOULD THE THREE MEN SAY?
PENCE: In August. Pence told the Associated Press that he did not take any classified information with him when he left office, saying, “Not that I know of,” when asked directly if he had retained such information.
As vice president, Pence would have had the authority to declassify some of the documents, although he did not say he did so.
BIDEN: Earlier this month, Biden said he was “surprised” to learn the documents were found at his think tank. He said he didn’t know what was in the materials, but he took classified documents “very seriously.”
His team did what they had to do,” Biden said. “They immediately called the archives.”
Biden told reporters at the White House on Jan. 12 that he is “fully and fully cooperating” with the Justice Department’s investigation into how classified information and government documents were stored.
TRUMP: Trump, who had the ability to declassify documents when he was president, has at times claimed he did so in relation to documents he took with him — although he has not provided any evidence of that. He said in Fox News interview in September, the president can declassify the materials “even after thinking about it.”
The former president called the Mar-a-Lago search an “unannounced raid” that was “not necessary or appropriate” and represented “dark times for our country.”
WHAT ARE THE POLITICAL IMPLICATIONS?
PENCE: Like him lays the foundation for a possible bid for the White House in 2024, the release of the document embroils Pence in a debate over the handling of classified material by senior government officials. He had previously insisted that he followed strict protocols regarding classified documents.
BIDEN: The release of his document could heighten criticism from Republicans and others who say that if Trump is guilty of something, he is.
There are also potential ramifications in the new GOP-controlled Congress, where Republicans are vowing to launch a broad investigation into the Biden administration.
House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, R-California, said: “I think Congress should investigate this.” The top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Mike Turner of Ohio, demanded that intelligence agencies conduct a “damage assessment” of the potentially classified documents.
TRUMP: The dossier probe is one of many complicating the former president’s bid for the White House in 2024, especially after it became clear that the Justice Department had opened a criminal investigation into his handling of top-secret government information.
Trump and his supporters called the Mar-a-Lago search a partisan attack by Democrats.
During a November 2024 campaign launch at the same club that agents raided months earlier, Trump described himself as a “victim” of wayward prosecutors and “the pus, rot and corruption of Washington.”
Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP
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