The White House Thursday night found itself in a controversy involving Vice President Mike Pence’s use of a personal email account while governor, just hours after Attorney General Jeff Sessions recused himself from any investigations that may involve the Trump campaign and Russia.
The Indianapolis Star reported that Pence used a personal email account for official Indiana business while governor ― and that the account was hacked by a low-level scammer last summer. Pence was a harsh critic of Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton during the presidential campaign for using a private email account during her time as secretary of state.
Pence used a personal AOL account to correspond with top advisers in Indiana, at times discussing sensitive topics that included the state’s response to terror attacks and the arrests of several men on federal terror-related charges, according to emails released to the Star in response to a public records request.
The current Indiana governor’s office released more than 30 pages of Pence’s AOL emails, but withheld an unspecified number of additional emails because they contained information the state deemed too sensitive, the Star reported.
The White House acknowledged Pence used a private email account and a state email account during his time as governor. “As then-Governor Pence concluded his time in office, he directed outside counsel to review all of his communications to ensure that state-related emails are being transferred and properly archived by the state, in accordance with the law, which outside counsel has done and is continuing to do,” the White House said in a statement Thursday night.
It’s not illegal in Indiana for public officials to use personal email accounts for official business, the Star reported, but those emails must be retained as public records.
Pence’s personal AOL account was hacked over the summer by a scammer who emailed Pence’s contact list, claiming that Pence and his wife were stranded in the Philippines and needed money, the Star reported.
The revelation that Pence used a personal email account for official business follows his outspoken criticism of Clinton for using a private email account for government business.
“You know, mishandling classified information is a crime,” Pence said of Clinton’s private email server during a campaign rally in November, according to Politico.
Earlier, Pence told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that Clinton “either knew or should have known that she was placing classified information in a way that exposed it to being hacked and being made available in the public domain even to enemies of this country.”
Pence for more than 18 months has been fighting a lawsuit seeking to force him to release Indiana emails the suit contends should be public record.
Nick Merrill, Clinton’s former press secretary, pointed out the hypocrisy in a Tweet.
“I look forward to the righteous indignation, wild claims, and multiple investigations into this,” Merrill wrote Thursday night.
Washington had barely simmered down from Sessions’ dramatic afternoon announcement when the Pence email story erupted. Sessions told senators in January he had no contacts with Russian officials during the campaign. But the Washington Post reported Wednesday he spoke twice with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.