WASHINGTON (CNN) – Presidents Joe Biden, former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence have all faced scrutiny over possible mishandling of classified documents.
In all three cases, classified government material was found where it should not have been. But there are key differences that distinguish each situation, such as how Biden, Trump, and Pence responded to the discovery of the documents, and how aggressively the Justice Department is currently investigating them.
Here’s a breakdown of the similarities and differences in the Biden, Trump, and Pence cases.
The Biden and Pence situation is similar. Their attorney found the classified documents, alerted the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), and filed the documents. In Biden’s case, FBI agents later found additional documents when searching his home in Wilmington, Delaware.
Trump took a different route. After he left the White House, the NARA realized they were short of materials. We negotiated for months.
The Justice Department obtained the subpoena in May 2022, a year after NARA first flagged it, after it suspected Trump still held some classified records. Trump returned more files, but not everything he owned, after which the FBI executed a search warrant at his Mar-a-Lago resort in August. , where more documents were discovered. It was the first time in American history that a former president’s home was searched as part of a criminal investigation.
For Biden, the exact number is unknown. About 20 classified documents were recovered before the FBI raided Biden’s home in Wilmington. The FBI uncovered many more classified files during its search, but neither side has disclosed the specific number of additional documents found.
More than 325 classified records have been recovered about Trump. This includes documents voluntarily returned to his NARA, documents handed over to the Department of Justice under a subpoena, and documents discovered by the FBI.
CNN reports that in Pence’s situation, his team found about a dozen documents at his home in Indiana.
Some of Biden’s documents were marked “Top Secret,” the highest level of classification. Some of these documents bore the designation “SCI,” which stands for “classified compartmentalized information,” and refers to highly classified material collected from U.S. intelligence agencies.
At least 60 Trump documents were labeled “Top Secret,” including several files marked with the SCI. There were also some documents with the “SAP” designation, which stands for “Special Access Program” and is used for documents held strictly in special protocols as to who can access the material.
A source briefed on some of the Pence documents previously told CNN that the government documents recovered from his home were of “lower level” classification without SCI or SAP markings.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has called a special counsel to investigate Biden and Trump. The Trump case is being investigated by special counsel Jack Smith, who was appointed in November. And the Biden issue is being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Herr, who was appointed in January.
CNN previously reported that the FBI and Justice Department were investigating Pence’s documents and how they ended up in his home. This falls short of a full-blown criminal investigation.
Trump’s investigation is the most advanced. Federal prosecutors obtained subpoenas, demanded the return of all classified documents, and attempted to disparage Trump for failing to comply fully. and CNN reports that there is now an active grand jury based in Washington, DC that has heard testimony from eyewitnesses.
The FBI conducted spontaneous interviews with several people on Biden’s team who worked with the documents, but there were no known subpoenas or search warrants for the Biden investigation.
There are no known subpoenas, search warrants, or FBI interviews in Pence-related reviews.
Both Biden and Pence have claimed to have been involved early with NARA to return lost documents and to be cooperating fully with the Justice Department.
Whether intentionally or not, Mr. Trump has repeatedly missed opportunities to return the documents to the government. Criminal prosecutors eventually concluded there may have been a deliberate effort to keep the documents, and Trump is now under investigation for possible obstruction.