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Vice President Mike Pence was unwise to use a personal email account when he served as governor of Indiana, but it’s a laughable to compare this new controversy to Hillary Clinton’s private email server scandal.

News that Pence used a private AOL email account to conduct official state business, and occasionally discuss homeland security issues, broke Thursday evening in a report published by the Indianapolis Star.

The vice president’s account was also “compromised by a scammer” last summer.


Interestingly enough, however, the report doesn’t mention until the eighth paragraph that the former governor acted within the law:

Indiana law does not prohibit public officials from using personal email accounts, although the law is generally interpreted to mean that official business conducted on private email must be retained for public record purposes.

Indiana law requires that government officials make all communications pertaining to official state business available for public information requests.

Though state servers capture all communications made with official email accounts, they don’t account for private addresses. Pence would have needed to take extra steps to make his private emails available to state officials, and the Indy Star reported he did just that last year when he left the governor’s office to become President Trump’s running mate.

The vice president’s office in Washington, D.C., defended his actions, saying in a statement to the Indy Star, “Similar to previous governors, during his time as Governor of Indiana, Mike Pence maintained a state email account and a personal email account.”

“As Governor, Mr. Pence fully complied with Indiana law regarding email use and retention. 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,” the statement added.

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There are plenty of legitimate criticisms for what Pence did, including that it was imprudent and sloppy.

There are questions about how he was “compromised” by a scammer. There are questions about who did it, and questions about whether the governor made it easy for them. What data, if any, were stolen from Pence’s account? If information was stolen, how serious and sensitive was it?

There’s also the question about whether these sort of personal email accounts are used to skirt transparency laws and norms, which is a serious issue that Pence needs to address.

That said, attempts to compare the Pence story to the scandal in which former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton regularly sent and received classified intelligence over an unauthorized homebrew server are ridiculous.

Clinton deleted classified information, which should have been archived, and she repeatedly lied about it. Clinton came under a federal investigation for what she did, and she faced tough scrutiny for flouting federal record-keeping laws.

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Though the FBI ultimately recommended that no charges be brought against Clinton, bureau chief James B. Comey nevertheless said last summer that the former secretary of state was “extremely careless” with national security and high-level state secrets.

Comey also said his agency found several troubling details that conflicted directly with Clinton’s initial claim that she never deleted classified information.

“From the group of 30,000 emails returned to the State Department, 110 emails in 52 email chains have been determined by the owning agency to contain classified information at the time they were sent or received,” the FBI chief told reporters.

He added, “Eight of those chains contained information that was Top Secret at the time they were sent; 36 chains contained Secret information at the time; and eight contained Confidential information, which is the lowest level of classification. Separate from those, about 2,000 additional emails were ‘up-classified’ to make them Confidential; the information in those had not been classified at the time the emails were sent.”

In short, the are few similarities between the Clinton scandal and the Pence AOL story. What the vice president did was legal, whereas 2016’s failed presidential candidate has to account for the Presidential Records Act and Federal Records Act.

Lastly, to those who spent much of the 2016 election complaining that the Clinton email story was a non-scandal, but claim now that the Pence story is a serious issue: You need to make up your minds.

Do you care about those in power seemingly skirting transparency norms by using personal email accounts targeted by hackers?


If you do, please be consistent. But if you only care about the Pence story because it’s a delicious bit of tit-for-tat, you would do well to keep your eye on the ball. Focus your attention on bigger Trump administration controversies, including the commingling of the president’s personal business empire with the Oval Office and the fact that several high-ranking White House officials can’t seem to remember their recent conversations with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak.



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