Justice Dept. will not seek charges in Mike Pence document case
The Justice Department has closed its investigation into former Vice President Mike Pence's possession of potentially sensitive government documents after leaving office and will not pursue charges, officials said Friday.
A Justice Department official said the agency sent a one-page letter to Pence's lawyer Thursday informing him of the decision. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because the letter has not been publicly released.
A spokesman for Pence, who is expected to enter the race for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination next week, said the former vice president was "pleased but not surprised."
The investigation of Pence's potential mishandling of government materials launched earlier this year, amid a much broader probe of former President Donald Trump's handling of classified material and the separate discovery that President Joe Biden had some classified documents in his possession after his time in the Senate and as vice president, before he became commander in chief.
Pence attorney Greg Jacob said in January that Pence had initiated a search of records stored in his Indiana home "out of an abundance of caution," to examine whether he - like Trump and Biden - potentially kept any records that should have stayed with the government.
In a Jan. 18 letter to the National Archives and Records Administration, Jacob said the outside counsel tapped to conduct the search had "identified a small number of documents that could potentially contain sensitive or classified information interspersed throughout the records." Pence had been unaware that the documents were at his home and was "ready and willing to cooperate fully," Jacob wrote. The material was subsequently turned over to the FBI.
The Justice Department investigations into the possession of classified material by Biden and Trump are still underway - each led by a special counsel appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland late last year, after Trump launched his 2024 presidential campaign and as Biden was widely expected to run for reelection (he has since formally launched his bid). No special counsel was appointed to investigate Pence.
Biden, like Pence, appears to have cooperated fully with the Justice Department after classified material was found in an office he used following his vice presidency. He agreed to additional searches of the office and his homes, in which several more documents were found. His lawyers say they promptly turned over all relevant material to authorities and have cooperated fully with the appropriate government agencies.
In Trump's case, the National Archives tried for months to retrieve government documents and other materials that officials with the agency believed the former president had improperly kept with him. Eventually, Trump returned 15 boxes of material to the archives. Once classified material was discovered inside those boxes, the Justice Department launched an investigation.
The government sent a grand jury subpoena to Trump's lawyers in May 2022 seeking the return of all material with classified markings in the former president's possession. Nearly 40 additional documents were returned, but the Justice Department developed evidence that more classified material remained. A court-approved FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, Trump's Florida home and private club, turned up more than 100 additional classified documents, some containing highly sensitive and secret information.
The Washington Post has reported that prosecutors have identified numerous instances in which Trump and his team may have tried to obstruct the government investigation, according to people familiar with the matter, who have spoken on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing criminal investigation.
The evidence obtained by prosecutors includes witness testimony and video footage that shows workers moving boxes at Mar-a-Lago; a conversation about how long video surveillance footage is kept before it is erased; and an audio recording of Trump - months after leaving office - describing a multi-page document that he claims is about possibly attacking Iran, expressing a desire to share that information with others but also making some kind of acknowledgment that he shouldn't do so.
In a message posted Friday after news broke of the Justice Department letter to Pence's attorney, Trump said it was "great" that his former vice president would not be charged and demanded a similar outcome for himself.
"When am I going to be fully exonerated," Trump wrote on Truth Social. "I'm at least as innocent as he is."
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