POLITICS + GOVERNMENT

Justice Department will not seek criminal charges in Pence classified document probe

Jun 2, 2023, 8:47 AM

Former Vice President Mike Pence talks with local residents during a meet and greet, Tuesday, May 2...

Former Vice President Mike Pence talks with local residents during a meet and greet, Tuesday, May 23, 2023, in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

(CNN) — The Justice Department has closed its investigation into the possible mishandling of classified documents found at former Vice President Mike Pence’s home and will not bring any charges, according to a letter from the DOJ obtained by CNN.

The decision comes ahead of Pence’s planned announcement next week that he will run for president in 2024. It allows Pence to offer an additional contrast between himself and former President Donald Trump, his political rival who’s under serious investigation by the Justice Department and others.

In January, Pence’s attorney found about a dozen documents marked classified in Pence’s Indiana home after the former vice president asked his lawyer to search his records following the disclosure of classified documents in Joe Biden’s possession in Delaware.

Pence turned over the classified records to the FBI following their discovery, and the FBI and Justice Department’s National Security Division launched a review of how they ended up at Pence’s home. Pence has said that he had been unaware the documents were at his home but said that “mistakes were made” and took responsibility for it.

The Justice Department is still investigating the handling of classified records by Trump and Biden. Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed a special counsel in each investigation, citing the fact that they are candidates for president.

DOJ declined to comment but confirmed sending the letter.

Pence and his team were pleased but not surprised by the DOJ decision, a Pence adviser said.

Pence’s advisers say they felt the former vice president’s discovery of classified documents stood in stark contrast to Trump’s, both in terms of the original process Pence’s team followed when his documents were packed up at the end of the Trump administration – when a small number of classified papers were accidentally packed – and Pence’s immediate cooperation with the FBI and the National Archives.

While Pence’s attorney contacted the National Archives and quickly returned the documents to the FBI, Trump resisted turning over the classified documents in his possession, eventually leading to a subpoena last year and the court-authorized August 2022 FBI search of his Mar-a-Lago resort.

Special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into Trump’s handling of classified documents and possible obstruction of investigators has resulted in interviews with dozens of Trump’s aides and employees and extensive grand jury activity in recent months, signaling a charging decision could be near. The FBI retrieved more than 100 classified documents when it searched Mar-a-Lago last August after Trump’s attorneys had attested the former president had turned over the classified material in his possession following a subpoena.

This week, CNN first reported that prosecutors obtained an audio recording from summer 2021 in which Trump acknowledges he held onto a classified Pentagon document about a potential attack on Iran.

When Garland appointed Smith in November to oversee both the classified documents and January 6 investigations into Trump, he said he did so “in the public interest” because Trump was now a presidential candidate.

Two months after Smith’s appointment, Garland appointed special counsel Robert Hur in January following reports that classified documents were found at Biden’s home and former private office.

Hur is still overseeing an active investigation into the classified documents found in Biden’s possession, and he has been in touch with at least one witness in that investigation since being appointed in January.

Biden’s team says that when the classified documents were first discovered last fall, they immediately notified the National Archives, which then informed the Justice Department. Biden’s attorneys have asserted that the documents were “inadvertently misplaced” and not illegally mishandled.

CNN will host a town hall with Pence on June 7, the day he is expected to announce his presidential campaign.

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Justice Department will not seek criminal charges in Pence classified document probe