The mishandling of classified documents is a chronic problem at the highest levels of the U.S. government, one person familiar with the matter told the Associated Press. At least several times a year, documents are located where they are not supposed to be and turned over to the National Archives.
On at least one occasion, Carter found sensitive government papers in his home in Georgia, the person told the AP. It is unclear when the discovery was made or when the documents were handed over.
Coincidentally, Carter signed the Presidential Records Act in 1978, though the law did not take effect until he was out of office and former President Ronald Reagan was in the White House. Before the law, presidential records were generally considered to be the president’s private property, not the government’s property, according to the AP.
The report about Carter comes after a series of classified document discoveries has hit one sitting president, one former president, and one former vice president in just the past six months. The FBI raided former President Donald Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida resort, in August to confiscate materials marked classified.
Attorneys for President Joe Biden found classified documents stored in his former office at a think-tank in Washington, D.C., and at the president’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, on four occasions. The FBI found more documents in the president’s Wilmington home when they searched the house on Friday evening.
An attorney for former Vice President Mike Pence found a batch of classified documents at Pence’s home in Indiana last week, which Pence promptly turned over to the National Archives, according to his team. The former vice president had his residence searched after the revelations about classified documents connected to Biden went public earlier this month.
Attorney General Merrick Garland has appointed two special counsels to take over Justice Department investigations into Trump and Biden.
The bevy of recent discoveries has forced some Republicans and Democrats into an awkward dance about the leaders of their respective parties, both having kept materials marked classified at their private residences.
“They’re trying to attack former President Trump. Biden was chair of the Foreign Relations Committee” in the Senate, Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-SD) told POLITICO. “He should have known better. And they were trying to claim the high ground on this issue when the shoe was on the other foot. And I think it’s a very tough issue for them to have to navigate right now.”
Democrats have maintained that Biden has handled the discovery better than Trump.
“He has done well by cooperating every step of the way, unlike Trump, but he still has documents that I don’t understand why he’d have in his personal possession,” Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-IL) said.