Trump’s claim of standing order to declassify docs was news to Mike Pence

Mike Pence on Sunday said former President Donald Trump’s claims about a standing order to declassify documents was not something he had been aware of during his time in the White House.

In early June, a federal grand jury voted to indict Trump on 37 criminal charges stemming from the Department of Justice (DOJ) and special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into his mishandling of classified documents after his presidency ended. The charges included 31 counts of willful retention of classified documents containing national security information in violation of the Espionage Act. Later, in July, a superseding indictment added new charges related to his alleged attempts to destroy security footage after it had been subpoenaed by investigators.

Trump pleaded not guilty to all of the charges at his arraignment hearing in Miami and has long maintained his innocence in the case. After the FBI conducted a search of his Mar-a-Lago residence last August in search of the documents, he claimed to have issued a standing order that allowed documents to be instantly declassified after they were taken from the Oval Office. Trump’s claims about his broad ability to declassify documents have been widely disputed, with the DOJ in particular finding no proof of the standing order he claimed to have issued.

Donald Trump and Mike Pence are seen at a political event. Pence on Sunday claimed to have no knowledge of the standing order Trump claimed to have issued that would have declassified that documents he took from the White House.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

During a Sunday appearance on ABC News’s This Week, Pence, who served as vice president under Trump and is currently seeking the 2024 GOP nomination for president, said that he had no knowledge of the former president’s supposed standing order, though he did not outright dismiss the possibility that it could have been issued. This came in response to news that Trump’s former chief of staff Mark Meadows told the special counsel that he also knew nothing about the order.

“In my case, I was never made aware of any broad-based effort to declassify documents,” Pence told host Jonathan Karl. “There is a process that the White House goes through to declassify materials, I’m aware of that occurring on several occasions over the course of our four years, but I don’t have any knowledge of any broad-based directive from the president, but that doesn’t mean it didn’t occur. It’s not something I ever heard about.”

When pressed further about the matter by Karl, Pence conceded that he “would expect” that Meadows would have known about such an order if it existed.

Newsweek reached out to Trump’s office via email for comment.

In the wake of the FBI search at Mar-a-Lago, classified documents were also found at residences and offices belonging to Pence as well as President Joe Biden. Both men cooperated fully, allowing investigators to conduct the searches, claiming that the materials had been retained in error. Biden’s case remains under investigation by the DOJ, while Pence was recently informed that he will not face charges for the materials discovered at his Indiana home.

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