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The FBI searched the home of Mike Pence after classified documents were discovered

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

FBI agents recovered a single classified document from former Vice President Mike Pence's residence in Indiana yesterday. Now, that's on top of the small number of documents that one of Mr. Pence's aides reported finding at the house earlier this year. NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson has been covering the story. Carrie, thanks so much for being with us.

CARRIE JOHNSON, BYLINE: Happy to be here, Scott.

SIMON: Do we know what the FBI expected to find at the Pence house?

JOHNSON: It's not so much about what FBI agents expected as what they kind of felt they had to do. The former vice president told a TV interviewer earlier this year he didn't have any government secrets at his home. And then one of his lawyers found what's described as a small number of classified materials, apparently in some boxes that were unopened. That aide notified the National Archives and DOJ. And the Justice Department sent some agents to do a thorough and independent search just in case anything else was there that didn't belong there. They found one classified document Friday and six more pages that were of interest. And our colleague Ryan Lucas reports Pence gave the FBI unrestricted access, even though he wasn't home at the time.

SIMON: We've never made a move in our family that, a few years later, we don't find a box that we forgot about. So at this stage, is it hard not to think that almost every former president or vice president has some kind of classified document in their possession?

JOHNSON: Well, we have confirmation on this rule of three that we always talk about in the news business. The FBI has now found secrets in the homes of President Biden, former President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence. The National Archives recently asked other White House officials to search their homes and offices, too. Of course, sometimes, holding on to these documents is just a bad mistake. And other times, it can be a crime. You know, there are lots of examples of the Justice Department prosecuting people for having classified materials, but those people tend to have not worked in the White House and had the ability to say what's - counts as a secret or not. And those cases tend to have other factors, too, like lots of documents and a clear intent to take them and, potentially, to share them with others.

SIMON: Mike Pence has been getting to know the Justice Department recently, hasn't he?

JOHNSON: Getting closer than, perhaps, he might like. We've reported this week that Pence also got a subpoena from special counsel Jack Smith. He's the man who's investigating the January 6 storming of the Capitol and the documents found at Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort. What we know is that Smith wants the former vice president to answer some questions before a grand jury.

And grand juries at the federal courthouse in D.C. have been really active this year. They have already heard from some lawyers in Trump's White House. But there's at least one conversation where it seems only Pence and Trump were on the phone together. It's not clear right now whether the special counsel also wants answers from Pence about Mar-a-Lago. And it's also not clear whether Pence is going to agree to testify or whether he wants to defer to former President Trump and try to put up some kind of legal fight here.

SIMON: You're going to be staking out the courthouse? Can we ask?

JOHNSON: (Laughter). I guess I have to. And, you know, there are already lots of interns and TV producers there every day looking for Mike Pence and all kinds of other people of interest. But in all seriousness, we have not seen something like this. The spectacle of a former vice president testifying, willingly or not, against a former president he served - it's just one more way the Trump administration continues to break ground.

SIMON: NPR justice correspondent Carrie Johnson, thanks so much.

JOHNSON: My pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Carrie Johnson is a justice correspondent for the Washington Desk.