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Unlike Trump, Pence no longer has to worry about classified docs case

Mike Pence no longer has to worry about an investigation into classified documents he inadvertently took. Donald Trump has reason to be envious.


After a special counsel was appointed to review President Joe Biden’s handling of classified materials, Former Vice President Mike Pence pretended he had the high ground.

During an appearance on the Fox Business Network on Jan. 12, the day the review into the Biden matter began, Pence declared, “The handling of classified materials and the nation’s secrets is a very serious matter. And, as a former vice president of the United States, I can speak from personal experience about the attention that ought to be paid to those materials when you’re in office and after you leave office. And clearly that did not take place in this case.”

We quickly learned that this and related rhetoric was unwise: Pence inadvertently took classified materials to his Indiana home upon leaving office in early 2021, sparking a Justice Department investigation. As NBC News reported this morning, that probe has run its course.

Former Vice President Mike Pence will not be charged in the discovery of classified documents at his Indiana home, according to a letter obtained by NBC News. On Thursday, the DOJ’s national security division formally informed Pence’s attorney that it had closed its investigation and that based on the “results” of that probe, no charges will be filed against the former vice president.

The timing is advantageous: The former vice president is poised to launch his 2024 bid for the Republicans’ presidential nomination, and he probably didn’t want this distraction hanging overhead.

What’s more, this is almost certainly the appropriate outcome. I can think of a great many things Pence has said and done throughout his political career that I consider controversial, but by all appearances, this wasn’t one of them: The Hoosier appeared to have made an honest bureaucratic mistake involving a “small number” of documents.

Pence returned the materials to the authorities; agreed to cooperate with investigators; and now he can put the matter behind him.

The same cannot be said for his former boss in the White House. The New York Times reported today on the apparent fact that special counsel Jack Smith has obtained a recording of Donald Trump discussing a highly sensitive document that he took after leaving office.

If that description of the recording proves correct — and Mr. Trump’s lawyers have been careful not to confirm or deny it — it would undercut one of the key defenses that Mr. Trump’s advisers have offered in their effort to justify why he was allowed to hold onto some of the government’s most sensitive secrets after leaving the White House. They have argued that Mr. Trump, while still in office, had declassified all the material he took with him when he left. It would also show Mr. Trump, in his own voice, invoking a sensitive government document to settle a score.

During an event yesterday with Fox News’ Sean Hannity, the former president said he doesn’t “know anything” about the recording. Nevertheless, given the circumstances, it’s a safe bet Trump is feeling a little envious of Pence this morning.

Update: By way of his social media platform, the former president asked, "Just announced that they are not going to bring charges against Mike Pence on the document hoax. That’s great, but when am I going to be fully exonerated, I’m at least as innocent as he is."

By all appearances, prosecutors disagree. 

This post revises our related earlier coverage.