BREAKING: Classified material found in Pence's home -- after denials; UPDATE: Remember when?

BREAKING: Classified material found in Pence's home -- after denials
AP Photo/John Minchillo

Oh, goody. It turns out that the classified-material virus is spreading, and it’s still a bipartisan disease — at least among politicos:

A lawyer for former Vice President Mike Pence discovered about a dozen documents marked as classified at Pence’s Indiana home last week, and he has turned those classified records over to the FBI, multiple sources familiar with the matter told CNN.

The FBI and the Justice Department’s National Security Division have launched a review of the documents and how they ended up in Pence’s house in Indiana.

The classified documents were discovered at Pence’s new home in Carmel, Indiana, by a lawyer for Pence in the wake of the revelations about classified material discovered in President Joe Biden’s private office and residence, the sources said. The discovery comes after Pence has repeatedly said he did not have any classified documents in his possession.

What in the wide, wide world of sports is a-goin’ on here? Yes, presidents and VPs have custodial authority of classified material while in office. They have work and personal papers that belong to them when they leave office, although the former are supposed to be at least copied to the National Archive. Any classified material for which these office-holders have custodial authority has to be returned at the end of their terms, and needless to say, plenty of other rules are in place forbidding the transfer of such material to unsecured and unauthorized places.

Like private homes, garages, bathroom e-mail servers, and socks. For instance.

Perhaps we should call a moratorium on record retention altogether until we digest what exactly is transpiring here. Alternatively or perhaps even in tandem, Congress has to take action in dealing with this problem by either amending the Espionage Act to allow for exceptions, or enforcing it.

Just a couple of hours before this news broke, Politico reported that Democrats had already decided to work with Republicans on this issue:

Some Democratic committee chairs, while declining to criticize Biden, have said they want to look at the handling of classified documents broadly. Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Mark Warner (D-Va.) earlier this month called for a briefing related to both the Biden and Trump documents. He told reporters on Monday that he hoped for an update soon.

Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chair of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said his panel was also looking broadly at the retention of records. Peters, who also runs Democrats’ campaign arm, said he wanted to deal with the issue “for presidencies in general. And we’re going to try to do that in a nonpoliticized way.”

This will throw more fuel on that fire, and more incentives for both parties to work together on it. Hopefully, anyway.

What does this mean politically? It probably lets Joe Biden off the hook, or at least provides enough of a distraction to cool the temperature around his scandal. If you think that the Biden scandal got exposed to force him out of the 2024 campaign, this may negate that effort too. Biden and his team certainly didn’t embrace the “everyone does it” defense when Donald Trump deployed it, but you can bet they’ll grasp at it now.

Let’s not forget, too, that Pence has made his own presidential aspirations clear. He published his campaign-style memoir, and has spoken out to oppose Trump and establish his own electoral identity again. This may take all of the wind out of Pence’s 2024 sails, though, even if it might blow a small breeze back into Trump’s. Pence wants to sell himself as a pillar of responsible leadership, which is hard to do when the FBI is hauling material out of your house that would get rank-and-file government workers indicted for personally possessing it. Not that Pence had much of a chance in the first place, but this certainly damages the nascent brand that Pence was building, to whatever extent it might have succeeded.

Finally, it might increase the demand for outsiders in 2024 for the presidency. Advantage, DeSantis and Newsom? Maybe.

Update: This reminds me of the old adage that advises to make your words sweet, so they’re easier to eat later:

Wanna bet Pence’s team comes up with some “reasons” now?

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