Trump and Biden teams both jump on Pence disclosure as a classified documents defense


Advisers to former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden jumped at news of the discovery of classified documents at former Vice President Mike Pence’s Indiana home, both seeing it as a useful defense in their own investigations into the documents.

Biden’s team continues to draw a distinction between him and Trump when it comes to their handling of classified documents, and the parallels between the Pence and Biden cases served to sharpen that argument in the initial outcome.

But sources familiar with both cases acknowledged Tuesday that new revelations about sensitive materials found at Pence’s home are helping their cause.

On the one hand, Trump’s legal team viewed the news of classified documents found at Pence’s home as a positive development for the former president, believing the discovery, combined with the ongoing special counsel investigation into Biden’s handling of classified documents, changes the dynamics of the Justice Department’s investigation into the former president, according to a source familiar with the matter.

While the circumstances are different in each case, members of Trump’s legal team believe this development will make it more difficult for prosecutors to justify bringing criminal charges against either of them, the source said.

Biden officials, meanwhile, were relieved by the news, according to sources who told CNN that the Pence news “turned the temperature down to this being a Biden-only story.”

Another source familiar with the investigation likened the steps taken by Pence in discovering classified documents to those taken by Biden. Pence turned over about a dozen documents marked classified to the FBI shortly after discovering them.

When Biden’s team discovered classified documents at his think tank’s Washington, D.C., office in November, they immediately notified the National Archives, which in turn notified the Justice Department, although the discovery was not made public for weeks.

“Pence appears to have followed a very similar initial process as Biden in terms of voluntarily reviewing materials and quickly disclosing to relevant authorities when they are found, all of which have been made public through a media report,” the source said.

The FBI searched Biden’s home only recently, months after the first classified materials were discovered. Biden’s team found documents in multiple locations between November and January.

But Trump allies also embraced the Pence news and believe it further blurs the lines between the three cases.

“They’re all already connected in some way,” said the source familiar with the thinking of Trump’s legal team, referring to Pence, Biden and Trump.

Alice Farrah Griffin

Former Trump staffer says Pence’s classified documents lean him in favor of Biden

Trump’s team also believes the revelations by Biden and Pence support their argument that this should not be treated as a criminal matter, but rather as an administrative review of the White House’s process for handling classified material, overseen by the Office of the director of national intelligence, the source said.

The special counsel’s investigation into Trump’s handling of classified documents is also looking into possible obstruction of justice. Meanwhile, the Justice Department has begun a review of Pence’s documents and how they ended up at his Indiana home.

Trump responded to the leaked Pence documents on Tuesday, writing on Truth Social: “Mike Pence is an innocent man. He has never done anything knowingly dishonest in his life. Leave him alone!!”

For Biden administration officials and allies who have been under siege for the past several weeks by multiple leaks of classified documents found in Biden’s personal office in Washington, D.C., and later at his home in Wilmington, Delaware, Pence’s headline was welcome news – and even quietly celebrating.

As one senior administration official put it, “It takes the temperature off the fact that this is just a Biden story.”

One hope, this official said, is that the discovery of classified documents at Pence’s home will help highlight that Biden aides apparently were not alone in the mistake of packing away classified documents that should have been turned over to the National Archives.

Another hope: The development could be used by the White House to try to emphasize that what matters most is how the situation was handled after the classified documents were discovered — and to continue to distinguish between the work of Biden’s legal team on the matter compared to the actions of Trump and his allies.

The White House largely deflected questions about the Pence news on Tuesday. The decision not to publicly engage with the discovery is partly related to the White House’s longstanding effort to stay out of ongoing reviews and investigations, one official said, citing the need to maintain consistency in that position.

But there was also a sense that there was more value in letting Pence’s development stand on its own — a much different tactic than the deliberate contrast with Trump’s case.

But that’s what underscored the careful navigation of what one official acknowledged was a “helpful example” of another former vice president dealing with issues that appear to stem from the transfer of office, who publicly said he didn’t know classified documents were were in his possession. Left unsaid is the clear value of the fact that the former vice president served in a Republican administration.

The official further added, “We’ll let you draw your own conclusions about what this all means.”

That didn’t mean staffers weren’t paying close attention to events throughout the day, an effort that included closely monitoring Republican responses to the Pence news on Capitol Hill, with particular interest in Republicans who have led or promised investigations into Biden.


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