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Mike Pence takes full responsibility for classified docs, contrasting sharply with others

By Sarah May on
 January 28, 2023

President Joe Biden's classified document scandal prompted the unexpected discovery of classified documents in the Indiana home of former Vice President Mike Pence, but as The Hill reports, the latter decided to admit fault and take “full responsibility” for the situation, whereas the current commander in chief has said he has “no regrets” and been unwilling to accept any blame.

As the Associated Press reported last week, “a small number” of documents bearing classified markings were found at Pence's home after having been “inadvertently boxed and transported” there when he left Washington, D.C. In early 2021, and the former VP's attitude on the matter has been one of contrition and forthrightness.

Document discovery revealed

According to the AP, Greg Jacob, an attorney for Pence, wrote to the National Archives explaining the document discovery, saying that his client had been “unaware of the existence of sensitive or classified documents at his personal residence” until a search was launched after the Biden scandal emerged.

Jacobs asserted that the vice president “understands the high importance of protecting sensitive and classified information” and was prepared to cooperate fully with “any appropriate inquiry.”

As a result of the discovery, Pence joins Biden and former President Donald Trump among those whose handling of secret government materials has attracted serious scrutiny, with Trump's case having prompted a summer raid at his Florida estate.

Despite their famously rocky post-White House relationship, upon learning of the finding at Pence's home, Trump took to his Truth Social platform to defend his former number-two, writing, “Mike Pence is an innocent man. He never did anything knowingly dishonest in his life. Leave him alone!!!”

“Mistakes were made”

Pence went out of his way on Friday to accept responsibility for the unanticipated document discovery, providing additional details of what occurred to Fox News, as The Hill noted.

“During the closing days of the administration, when materials were boxed and assembled, some of which were shipped to our personal residence, mistakes were made,” Pence said.

The former vice president continued, “We were not aware of it at the time until we did the review just a few short weeks ago. But I take full responsibility for it, and we're going to continue to support every appropriate inquiry into it.”

According to the outlet, officials from the FBI took possession of the boxes of documents found at Pence's home, but as the AP noted, despite the fact that the boxes were not stored in a secure location at the residence, they were taped shut and did not appear to have been opened since they were initially packed.

Biden's opposite approach

Whereas Pence has expressed regret that there were ever classified documents in his home and has accepted responsibility for the unfortunate development, Biden has taken a different tone entirely in the wake of revelations that sensitive government materials were found at the Washington office of his University of Pennsylvania-affiliated think tank as well as his Wilmington, Delaware home.

As The Hill reported separately last week, when quizzed by reporters about his handling of classified documents, Biden appeared incredulous that they would have the temerity to even inquire.

During a joint appearance with California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) to survey damaged caused by severe weather, Biden was asked whether he felt regret about the classified materials scandal, and he said, “We're talking about what's going on, and the American people don't quite understand why you don't ask me questions about that.”

Eventually getting around to the documents issue, Biden downplayed suggestions about his possible culpability, saying, “I think you're going to find there's nothing there. I have no regrets. I'm following what the lawyers have told me that want me to do. It's exactly what we're doing. There's no there there.”

Study in contrasts

Whereas Pence was at pains to provide full transparency about the document discovery at his home as well as the steps taken to remedy the situation, Biden and beleaguered White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre have declined to provide any substantive insight as to how, why, and when documents ended up in places they should never have been.

The tight-lipped approach of administration officials has drawn the ire of voices as divergent as Fox News contributor Joe Concha and Joe Scarborough of MSNBC, who characterized officials' “stumbling and bumbling” responses as “amateur hour.”

Even as questions about the Biden document discoveries show no signs of abating, it appeared more obvious than ever this week that insights from the president will not be forthcoming anytime soon, when, at a White House event Thursday, first lady Jill Biden was seen swiftly and decisively steering her husband away from curious reporters who pressed him for answers.

That bizarre scene drew intense criticism from former Rep. Doug Collins (R-GA), who said, "[N]obody, frankly, in all fairness to the first lady, nobody elected her to answer questions for the president on issues that the press may have questioned." He added, "They may not like the questions. They may not like the answer. But this is what his job is, to answer these questions and be part of the process of people understanding."