Vice President Mike Pence used a private AOL account to conduct official business in his former position as the governor of Indiana, according to public records. And at one point, the account was hacked and used to send fraudulent emails seeking money from his contacts.
Pence used the account to communicate with advisers about issues including homeland security in Indiana and the security of the gates at the governor’s mansion, The Indianapolis Star reports.
The Star says it obtained 29 pages of email records from current Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb’s office in response to a public records request.
Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, both Pence and then-candidate Donald Trump repeatedly criticized Hillary Clinton for using a private server and private email for State Department business. Appearing on Meet the Press in September, Pence said Clinton was keeping her communications “out of the public reach, out of public accountability.”
During the vice presidential debate in October, Pence alluded to the security concerns of using unofficial email systems, claiming that Clinton’s email server “was subject to being hacked by foreign governments.”
Pence’s own email had been hacked earlier that year.
Private email accounts are usually less secure than government accounts and are not preserved for use in public records in the same way.
Pence’s email was hacked before he was chosen as Donald Trump’s running mate, according to the Star. His email contacts were sent emails claiming that the governor and his wife needed money and were stranded in the Philippines.
Pence spokesman Marc Lotter said that the governor then changed to a different AOL account with more security, but that he stopped using it since taking office as vice president, according to The Associated Press. He said using two accounts was consistent with previous Indiana governors.
Public officials are allowed to use personal email accounts under Indiana law, though the paper notes that the law is “generally interpreted” to require public officials to save any business-related emails in order to follow open records laws.
The Star quoted the vice president’s office, who said Thursday that Pence did not violate any laws:
“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.”
Some of Pence’s emails were deemed too sensitive to be released as part of the Star’s public records request. Security experts told the paper that hackers were likely able to access Pence’s inbox and sent emails, which could have included those same sensitive documents.
Pence spokesman Lotter told the Star that comparisons of Pence to Clinton are “absurd,” because Pence did not handle classified information on the federal level as governor. He also said that Pence was using a publicly available email service and did not have a home private server as Clinton did.
Lotter told the AP that the law firm Barnes & Thornburg is currently reviewing Pence’s communications as governor and that contact between Pence and his aides who were using government email accounts would be automatically archived.