Pence says he did not leave office with classified material

DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) — Former Vice President Mike Pence said Friday he did not take any classified information with him when he left office.

The revelation — which would typically go unnoticed by a former vice president — is notable given that FBI agents seized classified and top-secret information from his former boss’ Florida estate on Aug. 8 while investigating potential violations of three different federal laws. Former President Donald Trump has claimed that the documents that agents seized “were all declassified.”

Asked directly if he had retained any classified information when he left office, Pence told The Associated Press in an interview: “No, not to my knowledge.”

Despite the inclusion of material marked “top secret” on the government’s list of items recovered from Mar-a-Lago, Pence said, “I honestly don’t want to predict that until we know all the facts.”

Pence was in Iowa on Friday as part of a two-day trip to the state, which hosts the leading Republican presidential caucuses. It comes as the former vice president has stopped in other early voting states as he makes moves to launch a 2024 White House campaign.

Pence also weighed in on Republican U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s primary defeat earlier this week to a rival backed by Trump. Cheney, arguably Trump’s most prominent Republican critic, has called the former president “a very serious threat and risk to our republic” and has further raised his ire through his role as vice chairman of the House of Representatives committee investigating the Jan. 6 2021, riot at the US capitol.

“My reaction was that the people of Wyoming have spoken,” said Pence, who was mobbed at the Capitol that day by angry rioters, including some who chanted, “Hang Mike Pence!” “And you know, I accept their verdict on 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 Congressman Cheney has taken over the years,” Pence continued. “But I have been disappointed by the partisan taint of the Jan. 6 committee from early on.”

Pence’s aides said the committee contacted his legal team months ago to see if he would be willing to testify. Although Pence has said he would give “due consideration” to cooperating, he was adamant that the historic nature of such participation must be justified and agreed upon.

“In addition to my concerns about the partisan nature of the Jan. 6 committee, there are deep constitutional issues that need to be considered,” he said. “No vice president has ever been called to testify before the United States Congress.”

Speaking further about the search of Mar-a-Lago, 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 reveal more details about what led authorities to conduct the search. .

“The anxiety felt by millions of Americans will only be resolved with daylight,” Pence said Friday. “I know that is not customary in an investigation. But this is an unprecedented action by the Department of Justice, and I think it deserves unprecedented transparency.”

The Jan. 6 upset marked the first in a series of public breaks between Trump and his once-faithful No. 2. But Pence has been careful not to alienate Republicans who have supported Trump but may be looking for another candidate in the election in 2024. Despite his reluctance to criticize the former president, Pence has occasionally spoken out against Trump, criticized the attack on the US Capitol and most recently urged his fellow Republicans to stop lashing out at the FBI over the search for Mar -a-Lago.

“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 and 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 move his aides have said will be independent of what Trump decides to do.

After visiting the Iowa State Fair Friday afternoon, Pence also fronted a fundraiser earlier in the day for Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley and was scheduled to speak to a Christian conservative group and a fundraiser in a northern Iowa county before leaving Saturday.

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