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WATCH: What we know about the classified items found at Biden's residence

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Politics

Jan 24, 2023 5:20 PM EST

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

The records "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 PBS NewsHour's Nicole Ellis spoke with PBS NewsHour White House Correspondent Laura Barrón-López about the Biden documents. Watch the conversation in the player above.

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, and Republican Pence has been exploring a possible 2024 presidential campaign that would put him direct competition against his former boss.

The newest discovery 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 either dilute or increase the attention on Trump and Biden, who have sought to downplay the importance of the discoveries at their homes. 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" after the Biden documents became public.

Jacob said the Pence documents 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 to collect the documents that had been secured. He was still in Washington at the time.

Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Eric Tucker and Zeke Miller contributed to this report.

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