MARK KARLIN, EDITOR OF BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
After all the Trump-Pence campaign attacks on Hillary Clinton over her use of a private email account and server for government business, emails released to The Indianapolis Star have revealed that, while serving as governor of Indiana, Mike Pence used a private AOL email account to discuss security issues -- and the account was hacked last summer.
The vice president's office is scrambling to justify Pence's occasional use of a private account for official issues while governor, but the attempt to draw a distinction with Hillary Clinton because she used a separate server and he didn't is easily debunked. After all, Pence's email, on a personal AOL account, was indeed hacked -- and the primary issue with Clinton's separate account while in the State Department was the security of her correspondence. By that standard, Pence failed because his private email account was penetrated at least once.
The Indianapolis Star broke the story on March 2. Terry Cook of the Star wrote:
Emails released to The Indianapolis Star, part of the USA TODAY Network, in response to a public records request show Pence communicated via his personal AOL account with top advisers on topics ranging from security gates at the governor’s residence to the state’s response to terror attacks across the globe. In one email, Pence’s top state homeland security adviser relayed an update from the FBI regarding the arrests of several men on federal terror-related charges.
Cybersecurity experts say the emails raise concerns about whether such sensitive information was adequately protected from hackers, given that personal accounts like Pence's are typically less secure than government email accounts. In fact, Pence's personal account was hacked last summer.
In addition, Cook noted that some government watchdog groups objected that Pence's private email correspondence was not saved on state servers and therefore would not come up in FOIA requests. Once again, this is a criticism similar to ones leveled at Hillary Clinton's use of a private email account.
Cook also noted:
Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb's office released more than 30 pages from Pence's AOL account, but declined to release an unspecified number of emails because the state considers them confidential and too sensitive to release to the public.
This is the type of excuse that would have had the Trump-Pence campaign crying "cover-up" when Clinton had certain emails erased for just such claimed reasons. Indeed it did, according to Cox:
Pence fiercely criticized Clinton throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, accusing her of trying to keep her emails out of public reach and exposing classified information to potential hackers.
As for the scammer, the Guardian US reports that someone hacked into Pence's account last summer and then sent emails to the then-governor's email list saying that Pence and his wife were penniless in the Philippines and were in desperate need of money. About this anecdote, the paper reported:
The vice-president, normally seen as a safe pair of hands alongside the volatile Trump, came under swift criticism on Thursday. Paul Begala, former White House counsel to President Bill Clinton, tweeted: “Oh, and Pence’s private email? It was hacked.”
Pence fought to keep his AOL account emails private, legally battling their release. A November 6, 2016, Salon headline declares: "Legal experts: Mike Pence’s lawsuit to keep his emails secret sets 'dangerous precedent.'"
Pence's email scandal is also infecting at least one other member of the Trump administration.
According to a Washington Post article today, "Scott Pruitt, the EPA administrator, occasionally used private email to communicate with staff while serving as Oklahoma’s attorney general, despite telling Congress that he always used a state email account for government business":
An environmental group and several Democratic senators are demanding a review of the personal email account of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, after he said during confirmation hearings that he never used that account for official business as Oklahoma state attorney general.
When asked whether he had ever used a private email account while on the job, Pruitt told the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee: "I use only my official OAG [office of the attorney general] email address and government-issued phone to conduct official business."
Yet several of Pruitt's official emails, released in a lawsuit in Oklahoma, were copied to his personal email -- an Apple account that was partially blacked out before being released.
Yes, Pence and Pruitt are hypocrites. However, don't expect Trump to be exhorting his loyal crowds to "lock them up" anytime soon.