According to an adviser to Pence, associates of former Vice President Mike Pence found a small number of documents with classified markings at his Indiana home during a search last week.
The documents were “accidentally bagged and transported to Pence’s home at the end of President Donald Trump’s term in office,” Greg Jacob, Pence’s representative for handling records related to the presidency, wrote in a letter to the National Archives.
The discovery of the classified documents in Pence’s home was previously reported by CNN.
The Jan. 18 letter said the former vice president was unaware of the existence of the documents and reiterated that he takes handling classified information seriously and wants to help.
Jacob wrote that Pence relied on an outside attorney after classified documents were found in President Joe Biden’s residence and former private office in recent days.
Jacob also said that the attorney could not provide any further information about the documents because the attorney stopped searching once it was clear the documents had secret markings.
“The attorney has identified a small number of documents that may contain sensitive or classified information scattered throughout the records,” Jacob wrote of the search, which he believes was conducted Jan. 16.
A person familiar with the matter said the attorney who conducted the search previously worked with Pence in the Trump administration, where he had a security clearance.
“Vice President Pence immediately secured these documents in a locked safe pending further instructions on their proper handling by the National Archives,” Jacob wrote.
In a second letter, dated four days later, Jacob wrote that despite a conversation with records officials Thursday about procedures for obtaining records of past presidents and vice presidents that evening, the Justice Department “evaded standard procedures and requested direct possession” of the records .
Pence was in Washington to attend the anti-abortion March for Life event, Jacob wrote, but he still gave permission to turn over the documents.
Jacob also wrote that there were two boxes in which the records with secret markings had been found, and two other boxes containing copies of administrative papers.
He said he would personally take those boxes to the National Archives on Monday. An archives spokesman declined a request for comment.
Pence’s transition from office has been notoriously bumpy after Trump spent weeks pressuring him to effectively overturn the results of the 2020 election so Trump could remain in power.
Still, the disclosure raises further questions about how confidential material is being handled at the highest levels of government at a moment when Biden and Trump are both the subject of Special Counsel investigations into the matter.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Attorney General Merrick Garland did not comment when asked about the retrieval of the documents from Pence’s home.
He declined to say whether the Justice Department’s involvement in the matter indicates an upcoming criminal investigation that could warrant a referral to a special counsel.
Trump has been under federal investigation for nearly a year because hundreds of documents bearing secret markings, as well as hundreds of pages of presidential records, ended up at his private club and residence, Mar-a-Lago.
Trump resisted urging by aid workers to hand over boxes of documents with unknown contents to the National Archives.
When he finally turned over 15 boxes, archive officials found hundreds of pages of secret markings.
Trump later faced a grand jury subpoena to turn over any remaining documents, and one of his attorneys wrote a statement saying everything had been turned over.
When investigators found evidence that wasn’t the case, the FBI raided his club in August.
Biden has worked together at his nonprofit offices and then at his home since the documents were discovered.
However, he and the White House have faced questions about the timing of the discoveries and the level of transparency with the public about when documents were found in Biden’s home.
On Friday, the FBI searched Biden’s home for about 13 hours and found six other items that were taken, his attorney said.
The President granted access to his home in Delaware.
Jacob, who was General Counsel to Pence during his time as Vice President, emphasized the collaboration in the letter to the National Archives.
Still, Pence and his staff had previously said they were confident the vice president did not keep any classified documents after leaving office.
The person familiar with the matter said the documents in question were previously mostly held at the vice president’s residence at the Naval Observatory.
Officials began briefing relevant congressional committee officials on Tuesday, the person said.
Pence is considering a presidential campaign for 2024, in a primary in which Trump is the only declared candidate so far.
Biden has yet to say whether he will seek re-election, but all signs point to a likely run for a second term.