Vice President Pence and his legal team have announced that all emails pertaining to state business during his time as governor of Indiana, stored on his personal AOL account, have now been turned over to the State of Indiana.
The IndyStar reported that the office of Pence’s successor, Gov. Eric Holcomb, has confirmed receipt of the emails from two AOL accounts belonging to Pence and that the review process has begun.
“Our office is now in the process of reviewing the records, and we anticipate being in a position to provide copies of records that are responsive to pending (public record) requests soon,” Holcomb spokeswoman Stephanie Wilson stated.
Karoline Jackson, Pence’s attorney, reported via email that the “complete electronic production of state records” was turned over to Indiana state officials on June 23.
At least 50 public record requests have been made demanding Pence’s emails, some from over a year ago. Requests have come in seeking emails regarding a large number of issues, including Donald Trump, voter fraud, Syrian refugee resettlement, Indiana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, a local HIV outbreak, and lead contamination in East Chicago.
Government accountability advocates are already questioning the process of sorting the emails, raising questions about how Pence’s attorneys decided which emails to release and which to withhold, and whether politics played a role in their decision.
They are also condemning the length of time it took (six months) for the emails to be turned over since Pence left office.
“What is the criteria his private law firm used to determine what is private use and what is state use?” demanded Zachary Baiel, president of the Indiana Coalition for Open Government. “This can definitely be seen as a way to filter out records from being in the public domain.”
“It certainly feels like the Pence folks were dragging their feet,” said Julia Vaughn, policy director for Common Cause Indiana. “He shouldn’t have been using a private account for public business in the first place. The former governor’s actions have cost us in terms of time and money.”
In March, the IndyStar reported it had obtained nearly 30 emails that showed Pence using his personal account for state business on matters of homeland security and public safety issues, and reported that Pence’s AOL account was hacked in the summer of 2016.
Indiana state laws, however, do not specifically address the use of personal email accounts for state business, only that public officials preserve their state-related communications and make them available to be searched in response to public record requests.
Pence has noted that he violated no state laws, and said in March that there is “no comparison whatsoever” to Hillary Clinton’s case of “having a private server, misusing classified information and destroying emails when they were requested by Congress.”
Earlier in July, Pence went on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight” to defend President Trump, stating he is not the kind of person who hides his true feelings. The defense was in response to Trump’s recent negative comments regarding Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
“I know the Washington way is to talk behind people’s backs. But that’s not President Donald Trump’s approach,” Pence stated, adding, “One of the great things about this president is you always know where you stand … I think one of the president’s virtues is his candor.”
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