Former Vice President Mike Pence claimed Friday that when he left office, he did not take any secret material with him.
The admission is important considering that FBI investigators confiscated classified and top secret information from his former boss’s Florida house on Aug. 8 while investigating suspected breaches of three distinct federal statutes. Former President Donald Trump stated that the materials obtained by agents had been “completely declassified.”
When asked explicitly if he kept any sensitive material after leaving office, Pence told The Associated Press, “No, not to my knowledge.”
Despite the inclusion of “top secret” material on the government’s list of things retrieved from Mar-a-Lago, Pence stated, “I honestly don’t want to prejudge it until we have all the facts.”
Pence was in Iowa on Friday as part of a two-day visit to the state that holds the Republican presidential caucuses. It comes as the former vice president has made appearances in other early voting states as he prepares to run for President in 2024.
Pence also commented on Republican U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney’s primary loss earlier this week to a Trump-backed opponent. Cheney, possibly Trump’s most famous Republican adversary, has labeled the former president “a very significant threat and peril to our nation,” and her participation as vice head of the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, insurgency at the U.S. Capitol has heightened his ire.
“My reaction was, the people of Wyoming have spoken,” Pence stated after being targeted at the Capitol that day by enraged demonstrators, some of whom screamed, “Hang Mike Pence!” “And, you know, I respect their assessment of the type of representation they prefer on Capitol Hill.”
Pence had “great regard” for Cheney’s father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, who served two terms in the Bush administration.
“And I appreciate Congresswoman Cheney’s conservative attitude throughout the years,” Pence added. “However, I’ve been disappointed in the partisanship of the Jan. 6 committee from the start.”
According to Pence’s aides, the committee approached his legal team months ago to see whether he was willing to appear. Although Pence stated that he would give “serious consideration” to participating, he was clear that such involvement must be justified and agreed upon.
“There are deep constitutional problems that must be explored, in addition to my worries about the political orientation of the Jan. 6 committee,” he stated. “No vice president has ever been called to testify before the United States Congress.”
Speaking further about the Mar-a-Lago search, the former vice president highlighted the possibility, as he has before, that the probe was politically motivated and urged Attorney General Merrick Garland to reveal more information about what prompted officials to conduct the search.
“The worry that millions of Americans felt will only be alleviated with daylight,” Pence remarked on Friday. “I understand that’s not typical in an inquiry. However, this is an extraordinary step by the Justice Department, and I believe it deserves unprecedented openness.”
The Jan. 6 insurgency was the first of several public spats between Trump and his formerly faithful No. 2. However, Pence has been careful not to alienate Republicans who supported Trump but may support another candidate in the 2024 race. Despite his reticence to criticize Trump, Pence has periodically spoken out against him, decrying the attack on the United States Capitol and, more recently, urged his fellow Republicans to cease lashing out at the FBI over the Mar-a-Lago search.
“The Republican Party is the party of law and order,” Pence declared during a campaign breakfast in New Hampshire on Wednesday. “Our party stands in solidarity with the men and women who protect the thin blue line at the federal, state, and local levels, and these attacks on the FBI must end.”
Pence indicated Friday that he will decide whether to run for president early next year, a choice that his allies say would be independent of anything Trump does.
After visiting the Iowa State Fair on Friday afternoon, Pence was slated to speak to a Christian conservative organization and a northern Iowa county Republican Party fundraiser before departing Saturday.