Pence says he didn't leave office with classified material

·2 min read

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Former Vice President Mike Pence said Friday that he didn’t take any classified information with him when he left office.

Pence made the comment during an interview with The Associated Press in Iowa a week and a half after the FBI seized classified and top secret information during a search at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.

Asked directly if he retained any classified information upon leaving office, Pence said, “No, not to my knowledge.”

The disclosure — which would typically be unremarkable for a former vice president — is notable given that FBI agents took 11 sets of classified records from his former boss’s estate on Aug. 8 while investigating potential violations of three different federal laws. Trump has claimed that the documents seized by agents were “all declassified” and argued that he would have turned them over if the Justice Department had asked.

But although Pence said he and his team complied with rules requiring the submission of classified material to the National Archives, the former vice president raised the possibility that the investigation was politically motivated and called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to disclose more details on what led authorities to conduct the search.

“The concern that millions of Americans felt is only going to be resolved with daylight,” he added. “I know that's not customary in an investigation. But this is unprecedented action by the Justice Department, and I think it merits an unprecedented transparency.”

His comments come just days after he urged his fellow Republicans to stop lashing out at rank-and-file members of the FBI over the search of Mar-a-Lago. Speaking at a political breakfast in New Hampshire on Wednesday, he sought to tamp down on some of the increasing threats against the FBI by ardent Trump supporters who are angry that Trump's home was searched.

“The Republican Party is the party of law and order,” Pence said Wednesday. “Our party stands with the men and women who stand on the thin blue line at the federal and state and local level, and these attacks on the FBI must stop."

Pence was in Iowa on Friday as part of a two-day trip to the state, which is scheduled to host the 2024 leadoff Republican presidential caucuses. Pence said Friday that he would make a decision early next year about whether to run for the White House, a move that his aides have said will be independent of what Trump decides to do.

Having visited the Iowa State Fair on Friday afternoon, Pence also headlined a fundraiser earlier in the day for Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley and was scheduled to speak to a Christian conservative group and a northern Iowa county Republican party fundraiser before leaving Saturday.

Thomas Beaumont, The Associated Press