DES MOINES, Iowa — Former Vice President Mike Pence said Friday he took no classified information with him when he left office.
The disclosure — which would typically be trivial for a former vice president — is notable given that FBI agents seized classified and top-secret information from his former boss’s Florida estate on August 8 while he was investigating potential violations of three different federal laws. Former President Donald Trump claimed the documents seized by officers were “all declassified”.
Pence, who was asked directly if he retained classified information upon leaving office, told The Associated Press in an interview, “No, not to my knowledge.”
Despite the inclusion of material marked “top secret” in the government’s list of items recovered from Mar-a-Lago, Pence said, “Honestly, I don’t want to prejudge until I know all the facts.”
Pence was in Iowa on Friday as part of a two-day trip to the state, which is hosting the first Republican presidential caucuses. It comes as the former vice president has made stops in other early voting states as he takes steps to stage a White House campaign in 2024.
Pence also weighed in on US Republican Liz Cheney’s primary loss earlier in the week to a Trump-backed rival. Cheney, who is arguably Trump’s most prominent Republican critic, called the former president “a very serious threat and risk to our republic” and further ratcheted up his anger over his role as vice president of the House committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the United States Capitol.
“My reaction was that the people of Wyoming spoke up,” said Pence, who was targeted in the Capitol that day by angry rioters, some of whom chanted “Hang Mike Pence!” “And, you know, I accept their judgment on what kind of representation they want on Capitol Hill.”
Pence said he had “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 that Congresswoman Cheney has taken over the years,” Pence continued. “But I was disappointed in the partisan smearing of the January 6 committee from the start.”
Pence’s aides said the committee reached out to his legal team months ago to see if he would be willing to testify. Although Pence said he would give “due consideration” to the cooperation, he was adamant that the historic nature of such involvement needed to be justified and agreed upon.
“Beyond my concerns about the partisan nature of the Jan. 6 committee, there are deep constitutional issues that must be considered,” he said. “No vice president has ever been called to testify before the United States Congress.”
Speaking in more detail about the Mar-a-Lago raid, the former vice president raised the possibility, as he has in the past, that the investigation was politically motivated and called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to release more details about what led authorities to conduct the search. .
“The anxiety felt by millions of Americans will only be resolved with the light of day,” Pence said on Friday. “I know that is not usual in an investigation. But this is an unprecedented action by the Department of Justice, and I think it deserves unprecedented transparency. »
The Jan. 6 uprising marked the first in a series of public pauses between Trump and his pious former No. 2. But Pence has been careful not to alienate Republicans who have backed Trump but may seek another candidate in the 2024 election. Despite his reluctance to criticize the former president, Pence has occasionally spoken out against Trump, criticizing the attack on the US Capitol and more recently urging fellow Republicans to stop attacking the FBI over the Mar-a-Lago search.
“The Republican Party is the party of law and order,” Pence said Wednesday at a policy breakfast in New Hampshire. “Our party stands with the men and women who stand on the thin blue line at the federal, state and local levels, and these attacks on the FBI must stop.”
Pence said Friday he would make a decision early next year on whether to run for the White House, a decision his aides say will be independent of what Trump decides to do.
After visiting the Iowa State Fair on Friday afternoon, Pence also headlined a fundraiser earlier in the day for Republican Senator Chuck Grassley and was scheduled to speak to a conservative Christian group and fundraiser. of the Northern Iowa Republican Party before leaving on Saturday.