WASHINGTON — Former Vice President Mike Pence said Friday that he didn’t take any classified information with him when he left office.
Pence made the comment during an interview with The Associated Press in Iowa a week and a half after the FBI seized classified and top secret information during a search at former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate.
Asked directly if he retained any classified information upon leaving office, Pence said, “No, not to my knowledge.”
The disclosure — which would typically be unremarkable for a former vice president — is notable given that FBI agents took 11 sets of classified records from his former boss’s estate on Aug. 8 while investigating potential violations of three different federal laws. Trump has claimed that the documents seized by agents were “all declassified” and argued that he would have turned them over if the Justice Department had asked.
Despite the inclusion of material marked “top secret" in the government’s list of items recovered from Mar-a-Lago, Pence said, “I honestly don’t want to prejudge it before until we know all the facts.”
Pence on Friday also weighed in on Republican U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney's primary defeat earlier in the week to a rival backed by Trump. Cheney, who is arguably Trump's most prominent Republican critic, has called the former president “a very grave threat and risk to our republic" and further raised his ire through her role as vice chair of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol.
“My reaction was, the people of Wyoming have spoken," said Pence, who was targeted at the Capitol that day by angry rioters, including some who chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!” “And, you know, I accept their judgment about the kind of representation they want on Capitol Hill.”
Pence said he has “great respect" for Cheney's father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, who served two terms under President George W. Bush.
“And I appreciate the conservative stance Congresswoman Cheney has taken over the years,” Pence continued. “But I’ve been disappointed in the partisan taint of the Jan. 6 committee from early on.”
Speaking further about the search of Mar-a-Lago, the former vice president raised the possibility, as he has previously, that the investigation was politically motivated and called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to disclose more details on what led authorities to conduct the search.
“The concern that millions of Americans felt is only going to be resolved with daylight,” Pence said Friday. “I know that's not customary in an investigation. But this is unprecedented action by the Justice Department, and I think it merits an unprecedented transparency.”
Days ago, while speaking at a political breakfast in New Hampshire, Pence urged his fellow Republicans to stop lashing out at rank-and-file members of the FBI over the search of Mar-a-Lago. At the Wednesday event, he sought to tamp down on some of the increasing threats against the FBI by ardent Trump supporters who are angry that Trump's home was searched.
“The Republican Party is the party of law and order,” Pence said Wednesday. “Our party stands with the men and women who stand on the thin blue line at the federal and state and local level, and these attacks on the FBI must stop."
Pence was in Iowa on Friday as part of a two-day trip to the state, which is scheduled to host the 2024 leadoff Republican presidential caucuses. Pence said Friday that he would make a decision early next year about whether to run for the White House, a move that his aides have said will be independent of what Trump decides to do.
Having visited the Iowa State Fair on Friday afternoon, Pence also headlined a fundraiser earlier in the day for Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley and was scheduled to speak to a Christian conservative group and a northern Iowa county Republican Party fundraiser before leaving Saturday.