In Ind., Pence fought records re­quests

Vice pres­i­dent used own AOL ac­count for state busi­ness.

Austin American-Statesman - - MORE OF TODAY’S TOP NEWS - By Ken Thomas

Vice Pres­i­dent Mike Pence re­peat­edly stonewalled me­dia re­quests to view pub­lic records when he was In­di­ana’s gov­er­nor, in­clud­ing emails about state busi­ness dis­trib­uted from a pri­vate AOL ac­count that was hacked last year.

Rev­e­la­tions Pence used the ac­count to dis­cuss home­land se­cu­rity and other of­fi­cial mat­ters, first re­ported Thurs­day by the In­di­anapo­lis Star, are just the lat­est in a series of trans­parency bat­tles in­volv­ing the Repub­li­can’s ten­ure as gov­er­nor.

The Star ob­tained the AOL emails through an open records re­quest after new Repub­li­can Gov. Eric Hol­comb agreed to re­lease 29 pages from his pre­de­ces­sor’s AOL ac­count.

Ear­lier this year, lawyers for Pence ar­gued un­suc­cess­fully in a civil case that In­di­ana courts had no author­ity to force him to com­ply with pub­lic records law. His ad­min­is­tra­tion also has re­peat­edly de­layed or de­nied the re­lease of records that could shed light on his ten­ure as gov­er­nor.

The hack­ing of Pence’s pri­vate emails brought ac­cu­sa­tions of hypocrisy for some of his at­tacks against Hil­lary Clin­ton on the cam­paign trail. He ar­gued Clin­ton’s use of a pri­vate server when she was sec­re­tary of state could have jeop­ar­dized na­tional se­cu­rity if the emails ended up in the wrong hands.

“There’s no com­par­i­son what­so­ever between Hil­lary Clin­ton’s prac­tice of hav­ing a pri­vate server, mis­han­dling clas­si­fied in­for­ma­tion, de­stroy­ing emails when they were re­quested by the Con­gress and by of­fi­cials,” Pence said Fri­day. “We have fully com­plied with all of In­di­ana’s laws. We had out­side coun­sel re­view all of my pri­vate email records to iden­tify any emails that ever ref­er­enced or men­tioned state busi­ness-re­lated ac­tiv­i­ties. As In­di­ana laws re­quired, we trans­ferred all of those to the state of In­di­ana sub­ject to the pub­lic ac­cess laws.”

Pence and his wife, Karen Pence, have used their pri­vate ac­counts — and — to con­duct of­fi­cial busi­ness dat­ing back to at least 2013.

Richard Painter, for­mer Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush’s chief ethics lawyer, said even if Pence wasn’t han­dling state se­crets like Clin­ton, his use of an AOL ac­count still jeop­ar­dizes na­tional se­cu­rity be­cause hacked in­for­ma­tion could be used as lever­age.

“The Rus­sians aren’t Democrats or Repub­li­cans,” Painter said. “They would love to find any­thing they can get on Pence or (Pres­i­dent Don­ald) Trump.”

Pence’s AOL ac­count was sub­jected to a phish­ing scheme last spring, be­fore Trump chose him to join the GOP pres­i­den­tial ticket. The gov­er­nor moved to a dif­fer­ent AOL ac­count with ad­di­tional se­cu­rity mea­sures, but has since stopped us­ing the new per­sonal ac­count since he was sworn in as vice pres­i­dent.

Pub­lic of­fi­cials are not barred from us­ing per­sonal email ac­counts un­der In­di­ana law, but the law is in­ter­preted to mean that any of­fi­cial busi­ness con­ducted on pri­vate email must be re­tained to com­ply with pub­lic record laws.

VIce Pres­i­dent Mike Pence has used ac­count for years.

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