News World White House defends Mike Pence over email furore

White House defends Mike Pence over email furore

Mike Pence will hold talks with Malcolm Turnbull later in April. Photo: Getty
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The White House says Vice-President Mike Pence “did everything to the letter of the law” after public records revealed he used a private email account to conduct public business as Indiana’s governor.

The Indianapolis Star this week reported that emails provided through a public records request showed Mr Pence communicated with advisers through his personal AOL account on homeland security matters and security at the governor’s residence during his four years as governor.

Mr Pence also faced email security issues when the account was subjected to a phishing scam last year, before he was chosen by Donald Trump to join the GOP presidential ticket.

As Mr Trump’s running mate, Mr Pence frequently criticised rival Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server as President Barack Obama’s secretary of state.

He accused her of purposely keeping her emails out of public reach and shielding her from scrutiny.

But today the White House defended Mr Pence, with spokeswoman Sarah Sanders stressing to reporters that state and federal laws were different.

Ms Sanders said his efforts to turn over the messages to be archived were “why anybody even [knew] about the account”.

“He did everything to the letter of the law,” she said.

Pence blocks requests for public records

The 29 pages of Mr Pence’s AOL emails released to the Associated Press showed he was given FBI updates on arrests made in a terrorism case.

They included details about Mr Pence’s attempts to bar Syrian refugees from resettling in Indiana — efforts that were ultimately blocked by a federal judge.

Mr Pence repeatedly stonewalled media requests to view the public records.

Earlier this year, lawyers for Mr Pence argued unsuccessfully in a civil case that Indiana courts had no authority to force him to comply with public records law.

His administration has also repeatedly delayed or denied the release of records that could shed light on his tenure as governor.

Comparisons with Clinton ‘absurd’

Mr Pence’s spokesman Marc Lotter said comparisons between Mrs Clinton and Mr Pence were “absurd” because Mrs Clinton had set up a private server in her home at the start of her tenure at the State Department and, unlike Mrs Clinton, he did not handle any classified material as Indiana’s governor.

Mr Pence moved to a different AOL account with additional security measures, but has since stopped using the new personal account, Mr Lotter said.

He said Mr Pence “maintained a state email account and a personal email account” like previous governors in the state.

At the end of his term, Mr Pence directed outside counsel to review all of his communications to ensure state-related emails were transferred and properly archived by the state, the spokesman said.

The Indianapolis Star reported the office of Mr Pence’s successor, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, released more than 30 pages from Mr Pence’s AOL account but declined to release an unspecified number of emails because they were considered confidential.

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.

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