President Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump, and former Vice President Mike Pence are all under investigation for allegedly mishandling secret documents.
In all three incidents, critical government materials were discovered in locations they should not have been. However, major differences distinguish each instance, such as how Biden, Trump, and Pence reacted to the discovery of papers and how actively the Justice Department is presently investigating.
The following is an analysis of the parallels and contrasts between the instances of Biden, Trump, and Pence.
How they were discovered
The situations of Biden and Pence are similar in that their lawyers discovered the classified records, notified the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), and turned over the documents. When FBI officials investigated Biden’s residence in Wilmington, Delaware, they discovered further records.
Trump took a different route. NARA discovered that materials had gone missing after he left the White House. They contacted Trump’s lawyers in May 2021, who negotiated the voluntary return of many boxes of key documents for months.
After believing that Trump was still holding onto certain secret records, the Justice Department obtained a subpoena in May 2022, a year after NARA’s original signal. Trump returned additional data but did not return all in his possession. In August, the FBI issued a search warrant at his Mar-a-Lago resort, where more records were discovered. The search was the first time a former president’s residence was examined as part of a criminal investigation in American history.
How many were discovered?
In Biden’s case, the actual amount is unknown. Before the FBI raided Biden’s house in Wilmington, about 20 sensitive documents had been seized. During that search, the FBI discovered even more secret papers, although neither party has publicly released the exact quantity of new documents discovered.
More than 325 classified records have been retrieved for Trump. Documents surrendered voluntarily to NARA, turned over to the Justice Department under subpoena, and discovered by the FBI are all included.
In Pence’s case, AWN said that his crew discovered roughly a dozen documents at his Indiana residence.
Level of classification
Some of Biden’s materials were classified as “top secret,” the highest degree of security. Some of the documents bore the “SCI” label, which stands for “sensitive compartmented information” and refers to highly classified information obtained from US intelligence sources.
At least 60 of Trump’s materials were classified as “top secret,” including some with SCI markings. There were also some documents with the “SAP” classification, which stands for “special access programmes” and is used for materials that are highly guarded with strict regulations regarding who can access the content.
A person familiar with some of the Pence documents earlier told AWN that the government files collected from his residence were classified as “lowest level,” with no SCI or SAP marks.
Status of the investigation
Special prosecutors were appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland to investigate Biden and Trump. Special counsel Jack Smith, who was appointed in November, is looking into the Trump case. In addition, special counsel Robert Hur, who was hired in January, is looking into the Biden case.
AWN earlier reported that the FBI and Justice Department are investigating how the Pence documents ended up at his house. This is not a full-fledged criminal investigation.
The Trump inquiry has made the most progress. When Trump did not completely cooperate, federal prosecutors issued a subpoena, demanded the return of all classified papers, and attempted to hold him in contempt. Investigators also obtained a search warrant for Mar-a-Lago, and AWN stated that an active grand jury in Washington, DC, had heard testimony from witnesses.
There have been no known subpoenas or search warrants issued in the Biden investigation, however the FBI has conducted voluntary interviews with some of Biden’s team members who handled papers.
There are no documented subpoenas, search warrants, or FBI interviews in the Pence investigation.
Both Biden and Pence assert that they worked with NARA early on to return missing papers and are fully cooperating with the Justice Department.
Whether on purpose or not, Trump missed numerous opportunities to return the records to the government. Criminal prosecutors subsequently concluded that there may have been deliberate efforts to keep the records hidden, and Trump is now being investigated for possible obstruction.