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Classified documents have been found in Mike Pence's private home

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Today we learned that yet more classified documents slipped out of the White House and into the private home of a top official. We're not talking about the residence of President Biden or former President Donald Trump. These documents were uncovered at the Indiana home of former Vice President Mike Pence. For the latest, we're joined by NPR's Greg Myre. Hey, Greg.

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Hi, Mary Louise.

KELLY: So another day, another tranche of classified documents turning up somewhere they should not have been. How were these documents found?

MYRE: They were found at Pence's home in Carmel, Ind., on January 16. That's eight days ago, and that's according to an aide to Pence, Greg Jacob. Now, he says Pence wasn't aware that he had this classified material at his home, but because of these recent document discoveries involving President Biden and President Trump, this prompted Pence to ask an outside lawyer to review the material stored at his home. And the lawyer found, quote, "a small number of documents that could potentially contain sensitive or classified information." Now, Pence's aide said these documents were inadvertently boxed and transported when Pence left the White House two years ago. And upon learning this, Pence put the documents in a locked safe. The FBI collected them from the safe last Thursday.

KELLY: OK. So the FBI has them now. Will this set off the same kind of investigation we are seeing with documents linked to President Biden and former President Trump?

MYRE: Well, we don't know yet, and we don't know what's in the documents, but this certainly seems possible. Now, Attorney General Merrick Garland has already named two separate special counsels. One is looking into the documents found at Biden's former office and residence, and the other one is reviewing the material found at Trump's Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida. Now, Pence is a possible Republican presidential contender in 2024. He'd certainly want to get this resolved before launching a campaign. With Trump declaring his candidacy and Biden likely to do so, we now have three possible candidates who need to sort out some issues with classified documents.

KELLY: Yeah. Well, and I have to note, both Democrats and Republicans seem extremely concerned when someone from the other party is found with classified documents. What are we hearing today?

MYRE: Right. So Pence himself hasn't commented, but he did speak to CBS on January 11, and that was five days before the documents were found at his home. He said his staff, quote, "reviewed all the materials in our office and our residence to ensure there were no classified materials that left the White House." Now, he said that he was very confident that was the case, although five days later we find out the opposite took place. And the head of the House Oversight Committee, James Comer, a Kentucky Republican, said Pence has agreed to fully cooperate. And we should note that Biden and his staff have cooperated with the government while former President Trump resisted for months as the government sought to retrieve missing classified documents from him.

KELLY: Starting to feel like a safe bet, Greg, that this ain't the last case you and I may have occasion to discuss, that more classified material is out there somewhere. Speak to why it is so hard for the government just to keep a handle on this, track it all down.

MYRE: Yeah. It is actually very hard to do that unless somebody actually knows that it's gone. You know, with classified documents, one agency will create it, and then it gets shared with other parts of the government, including the White House. But there's no master list of every document, which can vary widely in terms of sensitivity. So documents do go missing, usually by accident. And the intelligence community even has a term for this. They call it spillage. It happens, and they know it happens.

KELLY: NPR's Greg Myre, thank you.

MYRE: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Greg Myre is a national security correspondent with a focus on the intelligence community, a position that follows his many years as a foreign correspondent covering conflicts around the globe.