While speaking at Florida International University (FIU), Friday, Jan. 27,...

While speaking at Florida International University (FIU), Friday, Jan. 27, 2023, in Miami, former Vice President Mike Pence said he takes "full responsibility" after classified documents were found at his Indiana home. Credit: AP/Marta Lavandier

MIAMI — Former Vice President Mike Pence said Friday that he takes “full responsibility” after classified documents were found at his Indiana home.

In his first public comments since the discovery, Pence said he hadn't been aware that the documents were in his residence but acknowledged his lack of awareness wasn't an excuse.

“Let me be clear: Those classified documents should not have been in my personal residence,” Pence said at Florida International University, where he was talking about the economy and promoting his new book, “So Help Me God." “Mistakes were made, and I take full responsibility."

The discovery made public by Pence’s team earlier this week marked the latest in a string of recoveries of sensitive papers from the homes of current and former top U.S. officials. The Department of Justice was already investigating the discovery of classified documents in former President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort and at President Joe Biden’s home in Delaware and his former Washington office.

Pence's public acceptance of responsibility over his handling of the documents marks a departure from the reactions of both Trump, his former boss, and Biden in their own cases. Trump denounced the search of Mar-a-Lago as “one of the most shocking abuses of power by any administration in American history” and suggested without evidence that investigators may have planted the documents. Biden has said he was surprised to learn the documents had been found but had “no regrets” about how the public was informed.

The discovery of documents at Pence's home came five months after he told The Associated Press that he did not take classified records with him when he left the vice presidency. “No, not to my knowledge,” he said when asked if he had retained any such information.

The comment — which would typically be unremarkable for a former vice president — was notable at the time given that FBI agents had seized classified and top secret information from Trump's Florida estate on Aug. 8 while investigating potential violations of three different federal laws. Trump claimed that the documents seized by agents were “all declassified.”

Pence said he decided to undertake the search of his home “out of an abundance of caution” after recent disclosures by Biden's team that documents were found at his former office and in his Delaware home.

He said he had directed his counsel to work with the National Archives, Department of Justice and Congress and fully cooperate in any investigation.

The former vice president said national security depends on the proper handling of classified documents, but he hopes that people realize that he acted swiftly to correct the error.

“We acted above politics and put national interests first,” he said.

Pence, who remains estranged from Trump after the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, is considering a 2024 White House challenge to his former boss, who announced his campaign in November. Biden has said he intends to seek reelection in 2024, though he has yet to officially kick off his campaign.

Referring to a possible White House bid, Pence said he has been reflecting on the challenges the nation has. He said many accomplishments have been “dismantled” by the Biden administration, highlighting problems with immigration and the economy.

“We are giving powerful considerations on what might be next for us,” he said. “I am going to continue to travel all across this country. I am going to continue to listen and to reflect.”

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