The United States Department of Justice has ended a probe into the handling of classified documents found at the home of former Vice President Mike Pence, without filing any charges.
The move, reported by US media on Friday, removed at least one legal woe for Pence before the expected announcement next week that he will run for the Republican nomination in the 2024 presidential election.
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Pence’s entrance into the race would see the staunchly religious conservative take on his former boss and current frontrunner Donald Trump, as well as Florida Governor Ron DeSantis.
In a tweet on Friday, Noah Bookbinder, president of the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, called the Department of Justice’s decision not to charge Pence “appropriate” given that only a few documents were recovered.
“He apparently didn’t know about them, and he has fully cooperated with the investigation — all of which is in marked contrast with Donald Trump,” he said.
Classified documents also at Trump, Biden homes
In January, Pence’s lawyer Greg Jacob notified federal authorities that the former vice president had discovered classified documents at his home. Pence, Jacob said, was “unaware” of their existence and promised to cooperate fully with the subsequent investigation.
But Pence is not the only major political figure to undergo scrutiny for classified documents in recent months.
In November, lawyers for US President Joe Biden informed authorities that classified documents had been found at his Delaware residence, as well as at his office at the Penn Biden Center think tank in Washington, DC. The Department of Justice has pursued an investigation into that incident, as well.
Prior to that, the department had launched a probe into a tranche of classified documents recovered at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago home, including about 33 containers with 11,000 documents, at least 184 of which carried classified markings.
On Thursday, CNN reported that federal prosecutors had obtained a 2021 audio recording of the former president acknowledging he kept a classified Pentagon document about a possible attack on Iran after leaving the White House.
The report undercuts Trump’s claim that he had declassified the documents before taking them.
An expected campaign launch
US media on Wednesday reported that Pence is expected to announce his presidential bid on June 7.
While the investigation’s end removes one possible stumbling block, analysts said Pence’s bid is a long shot. A former Indiana governor, he has polled far behind rivals Trump and DeSantis, averaging just 4 percent of support within the Republican party.
When Pence was tapped to be Trump’s running mate in their successful 2016 campaign, he was framed as a traditional conservative who would “balance” the ticket with his evangelical bona fides and wealth of political experience.
Though he served as a loyal deputy to Trump throughout the presidency, Pence ultimately broke ranks by resisting a pressure campaign to stop the certification of Biden’s 2020 election victory.
The move has made Pence a top target of Trump’s vocal base. When Trump supporters stormed the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, some were heard chanting, “Hang Mike Pence.”
In April, Pence was ordered to testify before a federal grand jury probing Trump and his allies’ attempts to overturn the election results.
Pence has said, “History will hold Donald Trump accountable.”