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Mike Pence won’t face criminal case for possessing classified documents

The Department of Justice has informed former U.S. vice-president Mike Pence 's legal team that it will not pursue criminal charges related to the discovery of classified documents at his Indiana home.

Result removes any shadow for presumed 2024 presidential candidate; Trump, Biden cases are ongoing

A closeup of a white-haired man in a suit jacket is shown.

The Department of Justice has informed former U.S. vice-president Mike Pence 's legal team that it will not pursue criminal charges related to the discovery of classified documents at his Indiana home.

The department sent a letter to Pence's lawyer on Thursday informing him that, after an investigation into the potential mishandling of classified information, no criminal charges will be sought.

The news comes days before Pence is expected to launch his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination for president — a campaign that would put him in direct competition with former president Donald Trump.

A Justice Department official confirmed the authenticity of the letter to Pence's lawyer.

The discovery of classified documents at Pence's home came five months after he told The Associated Press that he did not take classified records with him when he left the vice presidency.

"No, not to my knowledge," he said when asked if he had retained any such information.

'Mistakes were made'

The items found at his residence, which were promptly turned over to the FBI, "were inadvertently boxed and transported" to Pence's home at the end of the last administration, Pence's lawyer, Greg Jacob, wrote in a letter to the National Archives.

After the results of the search of his home were revealed, Pence apologized in late January while at a speaking engagement in Florida.

"Let me be clear: Those classified documents should not have been in my personal residence," Pence said. "Mistakes were made, and I take full responsibility."

The issue of the storage of classified documents has taken on greater salience in the past year.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has named Jack Smith a special counsel to oversee the Justice Department's investigation into Trump's handling of classified documents.

Garland assigned U.S. attorney Robert Hur to act as special counsel to probe how classified documents ended up at Joe Biden's Wilmington, Del., residence as well as the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, a think-tank in Washington, D.C. The documents predate his current presidential administration.

WATCH | The Fifth Estate on classified documents found at Trump's Florida home:

The Trump Files

6 months ago

Duration 45:10

Classified documents discovered in Donald Trump’s Mar-a-lago home are the subject of a criminal investigation in the United States. The Fifth Estate reveals the find also set off alarm bells with intelligence sources in Ottawa about whether secrets important to Canada were left unprotected.

While Pence and Biden, through their legal representation, have been co-operative when documents have been unearthed, Trump appears to be an outlier. A subpoena, and then an FBI search, were utilized to search Trump's Florida estate last year.

As well, Trump has given multiple public statements in which he appears to defend possessing classified documents beyond his term as president, which ended January 2021.

In each of the Biden, Trump, and Pence cases, classified material was found commingled with personal records.

In the Biden and Pence matters, however, aides proactively disclosed the discovery of classified documents to the Justice Department and facilitated their return.

Reforms to classification system plotted

Possessing classified material is not in itself necessarily a criminal offence. While some government officials and contractors have been charged, others such as former Republican attorney general Alberto Gonzales and former Democratic secretary of state Hillary Clinton were admonished in reports for carelessness but not subject to prosecution.

Theoretically, persons can be charged for gross negligence or more serious charges under the seldom-used Espionage Act.

Defendants have been prosecuted for offences related to the three classifications of documents, in ascending order: confidential, secret and top secret. Top secret classification, according to the Justice Department, represents the type of information where "unauthorized disclosure reasonably could be expected to cause exceptionally grave damage to the national security of the United States."

Documents across the wide range of government agencies are classified for the purpose of national security. In 2010, Congress passed the Reducing Over-Classification Act to try to address the often confusing and complex process.

But an estimated four million people hold security clearances. And many U.S. officials have long acknowledged spy agencies classify too much information and declassify too little, using outdated systems and far too few people to review what can be released.

"It's an expensive system that we have. It's outdated," Sen. Jerry Moran of Kansas told The Associated Press last month. "We're a better country than what the system allows us to be."

A pair of bills were introduced in the Senate last month that would require the National Archives to screen documents leaving the White House for classified material. Under the bills, anytime a president seeks to classify a mix of official and unofficial papers as personal records, the archivist would first have to conduct a security review to ensure nothing is classified.

With files from CBC News

Credit belongs to : www.cbc.ca

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