Former US vice-president Mike Pence turned over a “small number” of documents with classified markings to the Department of Justice last week, according to his lawyer, as federal authorities continue to probe how sensitive government files ended up at the private residences of Joe Biden and Donald Trump.

Greg Jacob, a partner at O’Melveny & Myers and a Trump administration alumnus, sent a letter to the National Archives and Records Administration dated January 18 requesting its assistance in the “collecting and transferring” of a “small number of documents bearing classified markings” from Pence’s Indiana home.

Jacob said in the letter, obtained by the Financial Times, that the documents were “inadvertently boxed and transported to the personal home of the former vice-president at the end of the last administration”.

The disclosures from Pence, who is widely expected to announce a run for the White House in 2024, add to growing scrutiny of the handling of classified information by current and former presidents, vice-presidents and other senior politicians in Washington.

Earlier this month, classified documents from Biden’s time as vice-president were found at the Penn Biden Center, a think-tank in Washington, as well as his home in Wilmington, Delaware. At the weekend, Bob Bauer, Biden’s personal attorney, said the DoJ had found a fresh batch of documents at Biden’s Wilmington residence.

The discovery of the documents has cast a cloud over Biden’s expected announcement of his own re-election bid in 2024 — and handed ammunition to Republicans who had criticised law enforcement for its handling of boxes of classified files found at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort last year. Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary, declined to comment on Tuesday on reports of documents found at Pence’s home.

US attorney-general Merrick Garland has appointed special counsels to probe the potential mishandling of files by Biden and Trump. At a press conference regarding a separate matter on Tuesday, Garland declined to comment when asked about the discovery of the Pence documents.

In November, Pence told ABC News he did not take any classified documents with him when he left the White House at the end of Trump’s four-year term, adding: “There’d be no reason to have classified documents, particularly if they were in an unprotected area.”

However, Jacob, who identified himself as a “designated representative” for Pence’s presidential records, said that following reports earlier this month of classified documents found at Biden’s Delaware home, Pence had asked his lawyers to review records stored in his residence in Indiana.

In a second letter to the National Archives, dated January 22, Jacob said the DoJ had stepped in to take the documents, and FBI agents had collected them from Pence’s Indiana home on January 19 while the former vice-president was in Washington for the annual March for Life anti-abortion rally.

The discovery of the documents was first reported by CNN. Representatives for the National Archives did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Jacob added that Pence “understands the high importance of protecting sensitive and classified information and stands ready and willing to co-operate fully with the National Archives and any appropriate inquiry”.

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