Advisers to former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden jumped on news that classified documents were found in former Vice President Mike Pence’s Indiana home, and both saw it as a useful defense in their own document investigations.
Biden’s team continues to differentiate between him and Trump when it comes to their handling of classified documents, and the parallels between the Pence and Biden cases have served to sharpen that argument in the initial fall.
But sources familiar with both cases acknowledged Tuesday that new revelations about sensitive materials found in Pence’s home help their case.
On the one hand, Trump’s legal team views the news of classified documents found in Pence’s home as a positive development for the former president, believing that the discovery, combined with Biden’s own ongoing special counsel investigation into his handling of classified documents, changes the dynamic in the Justice Department’s investigation into the former president, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Although 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 charges against either of them, the source said.
Meanwhile, Biden officials were relieved by the news, according to sources who told CNN that the Pence news “lowers the temperature that this is a Biden-only story.”
Another source familiar with the investigation compared the steps Pence took upon discovering classified documents to those taken by Biden. Pence turned over about a dozen documents marked as classified to the FBI shortly after discovering them.
When Biden’s team found classified documents in his Washington, DC think tank 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.
“It appears that Pence has followed a very similar initial process to Biden in terms of a voluntary review of materials and rapid disclosure to the proper authorities as they were found, all of which were made public by a media report,” the source said.
The FBI searched Biden’s home only recently, months after the first classified material was found. Biden’s team discovered documents in several locations between November and January.
But Trump allies also welcomed the Pence news, saying it further blurs the lines between the three cases.
“They’re all now connected in a way,” said a source familiar with the thinking of Trump’s legal team, referring to Pence, Biden and Trump.
Trump’s team also believes the Biden and Pence revelations 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 investigation into Trump’s handling of classified documents is also looking into possible obstruction of justice. Meanwhile, the Justice Department has launched a review of the Pence documents and how they ended up at his home in Indiana.
Trump responded to the discovery of the Pence documents on Tuesday, writing on Truth Social: “Mike Pence is an innocent man. He has never done anything knowingly dishonest in his life. Let him be!!”
For officials and allies in the Biden administration, who have been under siege for the past few weeks by multiple revelations of classified documents found in Biden’s private office in Washington, DC, and subsequently his home in Wilmington, Delaware, the Pence headline was welcome news — and even quietly celebrated.
As one senior administration official put it, “It turns down the temperature that this is a Biden-only story.”
One hope, this official said, was that the discovery of classified documents in Pence’s home would help underscore that Biden aides were clearly not alone in making the mistake of packing 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 the most important thing is how the situation was handled when the classified documents were discovered – and continue to draw a distinction between Biden’s legal team’s handling of the case and Trump’s and the actions of his allies.
The White House largely deflected questions on the Pence news Tuesday. The decision not to engage publicly in the discovery was partly tied to the White House’s longstanding effort not to engage in ongoing reviews and investigations, one official said, pointing to the need to maintain consistency in that stance.
But there was also a perception that there was more value in leaving the Pence development alone — a very different tactic than the deliberate contrast to Trump’s case.
But it’s one that underscores the careful navigation of what one official acknowledged was a “helpful example” of another former vice president dealing with problems that appeared to stem from the transition from office, which publicly did not declare, that he was aware that there were classified documents in his office. possession. Unsaid was the clear value of the former vice president serving in a Republican administration.
Beyond that, the official added, “We’ll let you draw the conclusions about what it all means.”
That didn’t mean officials weren’t paying close attention to developments throughout the day — an effort that included keeping a close eye on Republican responses to the Pence news on Capitol Hill, with a particular interest in Republicans who have led or pledged inquiries into Biden.