(NewsNation) — The discovery of classified documents at the homes of current and former top U.S. officials has politicians lobbing criticisms at one another, but a former vice presidential aide says the focus should instead be on the system as a whole.
Classified documents were found at the Indiana home of former Vice President Mike Pence, his lawyers said, thrusting him into the debate over the handling of secret materials by officials who have served in the highest ranks of government. Pence had previously insisted that he followed strict protocols regarding classified documents.
The records in Pence’s “appear to be a small number of documents bearing classified markings that were inadvertently boxed and transported to the personal home of the former vice president at the end of the last administration,” Pence’s lawyer, Greg Jacob, wrote in a letter to the National Archives that was shared with The Associated Press.
The revelation came as the Department of Justice was already investigating the discovery of documents with classification markings in President Joe Biden’s home in Delaware and his former Washington office, as well as former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate.
Olivia Troye, Pence’s former homeland security and counterterrorism adviser, said the discoveries speak to a larger problem: a flawed document-retention process and policy.
“At this point, it’s like who doesn’t have classified documents? The accountability, the accounting for documents, the system is off,” Troye said Tuesday on “CUOMO.” “Clearly this keeps happening at senior levels, so obviously we’re doing something wrong.”
Troye has said in previous interviews that she once found classified documents in a bathroom at the White House, saying it was essentially commonplace for sensitive records to be handled without care. She also emphasized that if a lower-level employee like herself would have taken documents home, she likely would have been jailed.
Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed special counsels to investigate both the Biden and Trump document discoveries, though it was unclear whether one would be appointed to also probe the Pence discovery. The Justice Department declined to comment.
In the weeks and months following the Aug. 8 FBI search of Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Florida estate, Pence was adamant that he followed protocols surrounding classified documents and didn’t take any when he left the White House.
“I’m sure he’s re-evaluating his talking points now, in retrospect,” Troye said. “But look, fair is fair, I think there will probably be an investigation, and there should be. We should figure out how this happened, and we should make sure that it doesn’t happen again.”
In an interview this month with Fox Business, Pence described a “very formal process” used by his office to handle classified information, as well as the steps taken by his lawyers to ensure none was taken with him.
“Before we left the White House, the attorneys on my staff went through all the documents at both the White House and our offices there and at the vice president’s residence to ensure that any documents that needed to be turned over to the National Archives, including classified documents, were turned over. So we went through a very careful process in that regard,” Pence said.
Troye has no concerns about whether Pence would want to compromise national security.
“You can disagree with his politics, you may not agree with his stances on certain issues, but I can tell you this: it was night and day in the White House on how intelligence briefings were handled. He treated his national security team respectfully, and he understood the importance of intelligence operations,” Troye said. “I just don’t see him doing this willfully; I do think this was probably a mistake.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.