Here are some of the legal news stories making headlines this week:
Vice President Mike Pence’s lawyer discovered documents with classified markings at his home in Carmel, Indiana.
- CNN reported that on January 16, Matt Morgan, a Pence lawyer, found about a dozen documents containing classified markings in boxes of materials from Pence’s time in the Trump administration. Pence’s legal team reportedly notified the National Archives two days later, and federal law enforcement officials retrieved the documents on January 19. In a letter to the Archives, Pence’s lawyer Greg Jacob wrote that “Vice President Pence was unaware of the existence of sensitive or classified documents at his personal residence.” “Vice President Pence understands the high importance of protecting sensitive and classified information and stands ready and willing to cooperate fully with the National Archives and any appropriate inquiry,” he continued. Jacob also wrote that Morgan searched Pence’s documents “out of an abundance of caution” following the discovery of the classified documents at President Joe Biden’s home.
- Meanwhile, FBI investigators recently conducted a nearly 13-hour search of Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, in which they discovered additional documents with classified markings. “DOJ took possession of materials it deemed within the scope of its inquiry, including six items consisting of documents with classification markings and surrounding materials, some of which were from the President’s service in the Senate and some of which were from his tenure as Vice President. DOJ also took for further review personally handwritten notes from the vice-presidential years,” Biden’s lawyer Bob Bauer wrote in a statement.
- In addition to the Department of Justice’s probe into the documents matter, the House Oversight Committee has also launched an investigation. Committee Chairman Rep. James Comer (R-KY) has already requested information from the National Archives and the White House Counsel’s office. In addition, Comer asked White House chief of staff Ron Klain to provide visitor logs from Biden’s Wilmington home. In a letter to Comer, the White House Counsel’s office said it would “accommodate legitimate oversight interests.” However, counsel Stuart Delery emphasized that the administration will set boundaries to “protect the integrity and independence of law enforcement investigations.”
Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis said that her office’s “decisions are imminent” on whether to charge former President Donald Trump and his associates for their efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election in the state.
- At a hearing this week, Willis said that deliberations are ongoing, but “decisions are imminent” on whether Trump and others will face charges. For nearly two years, Willis’s office has conducted a probe into Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia. Last year, her office sent target letters to 18 individuals, which suggests they could potentially face charges. Among the recipients were Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s former personal attorney, and David Shafer, the chair of the Georgia Republican Party.
- A few weeks ago, the special purpose grand jury investigating the matter completed its work and submitted to Willis a final report. Under Georgia law, such a report would normally be released to the public upon a vote by the jurors. A number of media organizations also asked the court to unseal the report. Trump is not a party in the matter at this time, and he was not represented at the hearing on whether to unseal the report.
- At the hearing, Willis argued that the report should stay under seal while charging decisions are finalized. “We want to make sure that everyone is treated fairly, and we think for future defendants to be treated fairly it’s not appropriate at this time to have this report released,” Willis said. Donald Wakeford, an attorney in Willis’s office, argued that releasing the report at this stage would be “dangerous.” “It’s also a disservice to the witnesses who came to the grand jury and spoke the truth to the grand jury,” Wakeford continued. Representing the media organizations, attorney Tom Clyde asked the judge to immediately unseal the full report. “It is not unusual for a district attorney or a prosecuting authority to be generally uncomfortable with having to release information during the progress of the case. That occurs all the time,” Clyde said. A decision is expected soon.
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