Classified documents comparing Trump, Biden, and Pence

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Constantly, classified documents appear in inappropriate locations.

The FBI conducted a search on Friday for supplementary classified documents at the Indiana residence of former Vice President Mike Pence, after his attorneys recently discovered some of his own.

This follows the disclosure of classified materials at the home and former office of President Joe Biden in Delaware, as well as the seizure of hundreds of documents marked classified from Mar-a-Lago, the Florida residence of former President Donald Trump, last year.

An examination of the parallels and distinctions between the cases:

Concerning how many classified documents are we discussing?

Greg Jacob, Pence’s attorney, wrote in a letter to the National Archives and Records Administration dated January 18 that was obtained by The Associated Press and stated that “a small number of documents bearing classified markings” were discovered at Pence’s residence north of Indianapolis last week.

Jacob reports the discovery of a total of four boxes containing copies of administration papers, two of which contained “courtesy copies of vice presidential papers” and “a small number” of papers bearing classified markings.


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Pence spokesperson Devin O’Malley stated that on Friday, an FBI examination of Pence’s residence in Carmel, Indiana, uncovered an additional document containing one page with classified markings. The exact number of classified documents that have been recovered from Biden’s residence and former workplace remains unknown.

As Biden’s personal attorneys were clearing out the offices on November 2, 2022, “a small number of documents with classified markings” were discovered in a locked closet at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, a think tank in Washington, according to special counsel to the president Richard Sauber this month.

A second collection of documents bearing classified markings, a “small number,” according to Sauber, was discovered in a storage area of Biden’s garage near Wilmington, Delaware, on January 12. Additionally, one document was discovered in Biden’s personal library at home. Sauber clarified days later that six documents had been discovered in the library, not one.

Bob Bauer, an attorney for the president, stated that FBI agents examining Biden’s Delaware residence for nearly thirteen hours on January 20 discovered six additional items containing documents with classified markings and also obtained some of his handwritten notes.

Since departing office in January 2021, approximately 300 documents bearing classification markings, some of which were of the highest secret level, have been identified and recovered as associated with Trump.

In January 2022, the National Archives retrieved fifteen crates of documents containing “a lot” of classified material, according to Justice Department officials. In August, FBI agents stole more than 33 crates and containers from Mar-a-Lago, containing 11,000 documents. Among these, approximately 100 documents bearing classification markings were discovered in a storage room and an office.

Classified documents comparing Trump, Biden, and Pence


Jacob stated that Pence attorneys uncovered the documents on January 16 and placed them in a locked safe, and FBI agents retrieved them on January 19. On January 23, the four crates of documents were delivered to the Archives.

Biden: Sauber stated that upon the materials’ November 2 discovery at the think tank, Biden’s personal attorneys notified the White House counsel’s office, which subsequently informed the National Archives. The following day, the Archives assumed possession of the documents.

Subsequently, Biden’s personal attorneys initiated an investigation into alternative sites from which records might have been transported subsequent to his resignation as vice president in 2017. Documents were discovered in his Wilmington garage on December 20 and in his personal library on January 11 and 12.

The Justice Department, according to Sauber, was “immediately notified” and subsequently took custody of the documents. Biden consented voluntarily to an FBI investigation of his Wilmington residence on January 20, during which further documents were discovered.

In December 2021, a Trump representative informed the National Archives that presidential records had been discovered at Mar-a-Lago, approximately one year subsequent to Trump’s resignation from office. In January, fifteen crates of documents, some of which contained classified information, were transferred to the Archives.

A few months later, Justice Department and FBI investigators paid a visit to Mar-a-Lago in an effort to obtain additional information regarding classified materials transported to Florida. Federal agents executed a subpoena for documents that were presumed to be present at the estate.

FBI agents executed a search warrant at Mar-a-Lago in August 2022 and retrieved 33 crates. This action indicated that the agents were investigating potential criminal activities, such as the intentional retention of national defense information and attempts to obstruct the federal investigation.

The inquiry ensued subsequent to the sworn certification issued by Trump’s attorneys, which stated that all government records had been returned.

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Classified documents comparing Trump, Biden, and Pence

What are the potential charges?

Biden and Pence: There is no evidence that either party was cognizant of the records’ existence prior to their discovery and subsequent surrender.

Both parties seemingly promptly transferred the records without any intention of concealment. This is significant because, historically, the Justice Department has considered willfulness, or the intent to mishandle government secrets, when determining whether to file criminal charges.

Regarding the Biden case, in the event that the Justice Department determines that the evidence supports prosecutability, its Office of Legal Counsel has rendered the opinion that a president is exempt from prosecution while in office.

In determining not to reach a conclusion on whether Trump should be charged as part of the investigation into coordination between the 2016 Trump campaign and Russia, former special counsel Robert Mueller cited this guidance.

Attorney General Merrick Garland designated a special counsel on January 12 to conduct an investigation into the documents that were discovered in Biden’s possession. Robert Hur, a former Maryland U.S. attorney who served under Trump, will be in charge of the investigation.

TRUMP: The former president may be held accountable for obstruction during the protracted dispute over the retrieval of the documents. Moreover, due to his current positional absence, he would not be granted any safeguards against potential prosecution.

Garland appointed Jack Smith, a seasoned war crimes prosecutor with a track record of looking into public corruption, to lead investigations into Trump’s retention of classified documents in November. Additionally, Smith would scrutinize significant facets of an independent inquiry concerning the January 6, 2021, uprising and endeavors to annul the 2020 election.

Classified documents comparing Trump, Biden, and Pence


PENCE: He stated to The Associated Press in August that he did not depart office with any classified information, responding “No, not to my knowledge” when specifically asked whether he had retained any such data. Pence would have had the authority to declassify certain documents as vice president, although he has not stated that he did so.

In a statement made public on Friday, spokesperson O’Malley stated that the former vice president and his legal team “fully cooperated with the appropriate authorities and consented to a consensual search of his residence.”

BIDEN: He expressed “surprise” to learn earlier this month that documents had been discovered at his think tank. Although he was unaware of the contents of the document, he stated that classified records are “extremely serious.” “They did what they ought to have done,” stated Biden of his team. “They called the Archives immediately.”

Biden informed White House reporters on January 12 that he was “completely and voluntarily cooperating” with a Justice Department investigation into the storage of classified information and government records.

TRUMP: During his presidency, Trump possessed the authority to declassify documents. He has on occasion claimed that he did so in regards to the documents he personally carried with him, but no substantiating evidence has been presented. In September, he stated in an interview with Fox News that a president can declassify information “just by thinking about it.”

The Mar-a-Lago search was deemed an “unannounced raid” by the former president, which he described as “not necessary or appropriate” and indicative of “dark times for our nation.”

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Classified documents comparing Trump, Biden, and Pence
Classified documents comparing Trump, Biden, and Pence

PENCE: As he establishes the foundation for a potential 2024 presidential campaign, the revelation of the documents embroiled Pence in the controversy surrounding the management of classified information by former high-ranking government officials. Prior to this, he had maintained that he adhered to rigorous protocols concerning classified documents.

BIDEN: The revelation of his documents may amplify censure from Republicans and others who contend that he shares any culpability that Trump does. Potential consequences may also arise in a newly elected Congress under Republican control, as Republicans have pledged to initiate extensive investigations into the Biden administration.

Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California has stated, “I believe Congress should investigate this.” Ohio Representative Mike Turner, the ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, has demanded that intelligence agencies perform a “damage assessment” on documents that may be classified.

The investigation into the documents is among several that complicate the former president’s 2024 presidential campaign, especially since it became public that the Department of Justice had initiated a criminal inquiry into the retention of top-secret government data.

Trump and his supporters have described the Mar-a-Lago search as a partisan assault by Democrats. A few months prior, during his November 2024 campaign launch at the same club that agents had previously searched, Trump portrayed himself as a victim of misguided prosecutors and the “rotting, festering, and corruption of Washington.”

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