During the 2016 presidential election, a huge focal point of Republican criticism was Secretary Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while she was working at the State Department. President Trump brought it up on countless occasions; crowds at his rallies sometimes even broke out in the now infamous chant "Lock her up." This was an apparent response to what they understood as a crime, and the private email controversy undoubtedly impacted voter perceptions of Clinton. So it is no small deal that The Indianapolis Star is now reporting that Vice President Mike Pence also used a private email account while he served as governor of Indiana, though the two circumstances are not identical.
Not only did Pence use an unsecured AOL email account, but it was also hacked. Apparently, this security breach came to light after all of Pence's contacts received a fraudulent email claiming that he and his wife had been trapped in the Philippines, followed by requests for money. After that little embarrassment, Pence switched to a different system, and has since changed email accounts once more. One assumes that Pence, and all of Trump's administration, are now using only government-run and approved accounts, given the amount of criticism heaped on Clinton for not doing so.
Rather surprisingly, the law in Indiana allows for government officials to keep and use private email, even while conducting state business. They are still required to keep copies of any state-related exchanges, but of course the immediate question there is: Who monitors and ensures that such records are indeed maintained?
After all, within the Trump accusation of Clinton deleting 33,000 emails after she'd received a subpoena from the House Select Committee on Benghazi was an implicit accusation. Because surely somewhere within those supposedly "personal" 33,000 deletions were compromising, work-related exchanges! No one besides Clinton has any way of knowing, but that's not the point. The point is that the same principle must then apply to Pence in Indiana as well.
Still, according to Marc Lotter, Pence's press secretary, drawing an equivalence between Pence's AOL account and Clinton's private server is "absurd." He points out that Pence did not handle any classified documents on his email, and that unlike Clinton, Pence did not build his own server. Sensitive information being subject to hacking at the federal level is also obviously a much more serious threat than at the state level.
That is not to say the security risk of private email in Pence's case was inconsequential. As reported by The Indiana Star, certain discussions involved issues of homeland security, a topic usually taken quite seriously by Republicans. And while Pence critics are jumping all over this story, it remains to be seen if members of his own party — many of whom were quick to condemn Clinton's mishandling of emails — will bring the same judgment to the vice president.