March 3, 2017 - 11:04am
Vice President Mike Pence used a private email account to conduct public business when he was governor of Indiana, a practice that was legal but raised questions about the security of the communications, some of which addressed sensitive topics.
Mr. Pence used an AOL email account to communicate with top advisers on matters including the security gates at the governor’s residence and the state’s response to terrorist attacks across the globe, The Indianapolis Star reported Thursday night.
Mr. Pence’s use of personal email to conduct public business echoed Hillary Clinton’s use of a private server and email account when she was secretary of state. That practice was the subject of investigations, drew considerable criticism from Republicans and was frequently used as fodder by President Trump during his campaign.
In an appearance on “Meet the Press” in September, Mr. Pence, who took office as governor in 2013, said Mrs. Clinton had used the private server to keep her emails “out of the public reach, out of public accountability.”
A spokesman for Mr. Pence, Marc Lotter, told The Star that any comparisons between Mr. Pence and Mrs. Clinton were “absurd.” He added that as governor, Mr. Pence did not handle federally classified information, and that he had used a commercial email provider while Mrs. Clinton had a private server installed in her home.
Mr. Lotter could not be reached for comment Thursday night.
The office of Indiana’s current governor, Eric Holcomb, released more than 30 pages from Mr. Pence’s email account in response to a public records request by The Star. The state did not release an unspecified number of other emails, saying they were confidential and too sensitive to make public.
Security experts said the use of a personal email account raised concerns about whether sensitive information was properly protected, given that such accounts are typically less secure than government ones.
The Star reported that Mr. Pence’s personal account was compromised over the summer by someone who sent an email to his contacts claiming that Mr. Pence and his wife were stranded in the Philippines and urgently needed money. Mr. Pence sent an email apologizing to those who had received the fake message and set up a new AOL account.
The hack appeared to be part of a broad attack, not directed at Mr. Pence specifically.
Indiana law requires that records related to state business be retained and available in response to public records requests. While emails on state accounts would be captured by state computer servers, messages sent on a private account would be hidden unless steps were taken to make them available.
The Star quoted a statement released by the vice president’s office in Washington that said Mr. Pence had maintained state and personal email accounts.
“As governor, Mr. Pence fully complied with Indiana law regarding email use and retention,” the statement said. “Government emails involving his state and personal accounts are being archived by the state consistent with Indiana law and are being managed according to Indiana’s Access to Public Records Act.”
Public officials’ using private email accounts is not a practice limited to Mr. Pence. The Chicago Tribune reported in December that Mayor Rahm Emanuel used personal email accounts, which allowed him to hide some of his government correspondence from the public.