VP Elect Mike Pence Goes To Court To Keep His Emails Secret

from the hypocrisy-again dept

After making it a key plank of the Trump/Pence campaign that the public needed to see what was in Hillary Clinton's emails, it does seem somewhat ironic that VP Elect Mike Pence is now headed to court to protect what's in some of his emails as governor of Indiana.
The administration is fighting to conceal the contents of an email sent to Gov. Mike Pence by a political ally. That email is being sought by a prominent Democratic labor lawyer who says he wants to expose waste in the Republican administration.
The circumstances are different, but the general principle is the same -- and there's a really important issue at stake when it comes to FOIA and public records issues. The background is fairly convoluted, but here's a quick summary. After President Obama announced a plan to defer enforcement of certain immigration laws for certain individuals, a few states were upset about it, and Texas and Indiana (where Pence is governor) sued the President. Pence hired an outside law firm to handle the case, and a local lawyer thought this was a waste of taxpayer funds. The lawyer filed public records requests to get access to emails about the decision to hire the law firm and to find out the costs to taxpayers.

Pence's office released some emails, but they were apparently redacted in places -- and in one case an email referred to an attached white paper that was not included. The lawyer who filed the request, William Groth, went to court to demand that the Pence administration reveal the full email with the attached white paper. The Pence administration has argued that it's not subject to public records requests as "attorney-client" work material -- but also that the courts are not allowed to question what the government chooses to release or redact under public records laws. A lower court agreed -- following an Indiana Supreme Court ruling saying that the courts cannot "meddle" in public records decisions by the legislative or executive branch due to "separation of powers." That's a bizarre reading of the law that seems to actually turn the concept of separation of powers on its head, as it kind of destroys a key part of that separation: the checks and balances of the three branches of government.

Either way, Groth has appealed, and that means that Pence is effectively going to court to argue that his emails as governor need not be revealed. Now, you can (and I'm sure some folks will...) argue that this is entirely different than the Clinton situation. But... it really isn't. The key issue in talking about the "33,000" emails that Clinton supposedly deleted was the fact that her legal team basically made the decision by themselves what documents were related to her government work and should be turned over, and which were personal, and thus deleted. If Pence is arguing that his office alone should get to determine which emails can be revealed and which cannot, it seems fairly hypocritical of him to also have argued that Clinton and her team shouldn't have been able to make the same decision.

But, of course, this is politics and the only real form of consistency is you argue for what benefits you and your team, no matter how contradictory it may be compared to when you're in similar situations.

But getting beyond the hypocritical symmetry here, this is an incredibly important issue. For many, many years, we've reported on how various governments -- federal, state, local -- seem to go out of their way to avoid truly complying with various FOIA and public records regulations. Indiana's ruling that such decisions cannot be challenged in court is ridiculous and basically takes away all of the power behind the state's public records law. Government officials can just refuse to release or redact whatever they want and get away with it. That's not any way to create government transparency. It's a way to hide corruption and sketchy behavior.

Filed Under: emails, foia, hillary clinton, indiana, mike pence, public records, redaction, separation of powers


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Nov 2016 @ 11:01am

    Maybe the Russians can help like they did with Hillary...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    PRMan, 14 Nov 2016 @ 11:14am

    Totally different

    He is going to court to argue against it, and if he loses, the emails will be revealed.

    Clinton just shredded everything like a corrupt investment banker.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Nov 2016 @ 12:33pm

      Re: Totally different

      Also, the Pence legal team acknowledges that these are government documents and argues that they are exempt because reasons. The reasons may be legally baseless; the court can and should evaluate the merits of those reasons. Even if Pence prevails on the merits, that means only that the law, as interpreted by the court, permits the messages to be kept secret. It does not mean that the law is well written and that enabling such secrecy serves a compelling public interest. We might get a ruling where the court declares the messages exempt, but with a non-binding suggestion to the legislature that the public would be better served if the law was amended to forbid such secrecy.

      The Clinton legal team argued that the missing e-mails were personal documents and therefore exempt because only government documents were at issue. Many of the disputed e-mails were destroyed before the dispute was resolved, making it impossible to determine the validity of the claim that the messages were personal in nature.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I.T. Guy, 14 Nov 2016 @ 11:26am

    "Now, you can (and I'm sure some folks will...) argue that this is entirely different than the Clinton situation. But... it really isn't."

    Here I am :)

    Um, its totally different than the TheHills server. For one the emails requested still exist and were not deleted to obscure them. Two, they weren't on a home grown basement server.

    This is the EXACT reason why Hills had her own server. She knows it... I know it... and you should too.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 14 Nov 2016 @ 11:35am

      Re:

      [i]and were not deleted to obscure them. [/i]

      Oh, ye of much faith...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Oninoshiko (profile), 14 Nov 2016 @ 4:57pm

      Re:

      There's one other reason it's different... the first argument mentioned in the article.

      Attorney-client privilege is a legit reason to argue they are exempt. The second argument is... creative (which is my polite way to say it should be rejected, and those who support it should receive a stern talking-to).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 15 Nov 2016 @ 1:08am

      Re:

      I get where you're coming from, but what Mike's saying is that Clinton attempted to obscure public policy communications that should have legitimately been available to FOIA request. Pence is trying to obscure public policy communications that should have legitimately been available to FOIA request. Obviously, Clinton's actions were far more criminal and cynical, but Pence's actions are, at the end of the day, no more legitimate than hers; especially when his running mate pushed so hard on the "Crooked Hillary" rhetoric, and here's Pence attempting to refuse access to very similar documents.

      Again, I agree that to compare the scale of their actions is laughable, but that doesn't excuse him in the slightest.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Anonymous Monkey (profile), 14 Nov 2016 @ 11:27am

    Their own words against them ...

    "If you've done nothing wrong, then you've got nothing to hide." Right?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Falindraun (profile), 14 Nov 2016 @ 11:44am

      Re: Their own words against them ...

      i have always disagreed with that statement. as we all have personal information, things or documents in our possession that we want to hide and keep private even though we have genuinely done nothing wrong or even anything close to it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        DebbyS (profile), 14 Nov 2016 @ 11:56am

        Re: Re: Their own words against them ...

        I agree, Falindraun, except where it applies to those hypocrites who would demand the rest of us obey their rules while they themselves are ignoring them.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Anonymous Monkey (profile), 14 Nov 2016 @ 3:28pm

          Re: Re: Re: Their own words against them ...

          I also agree with Falindraun, but it's great to see how quickly they start to squirm and rattle off all sorts of excuses why THEY shouldn't have to adhere to the same standards.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Nathan F (profile), 14 Nov 2016 @ 11:44am

    VP Elect Mike Pence is a special snowflake so of course he can refuse to turn over the emails (that would show wrongdoing on their part). Why in the world are you bothering these powerful people when they are busy trying to run the country (into the ground)?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Tyson (profile), 14 Nov 2016 @ 11:49am

      Re:

      Uhm....I think you are misusing the word snowflake. That's the regressive left, the ones in the street being extra dramatic for their masters.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 14 Nov 2016 @ 12:00pm

        Re: Re:

        >misusing
        I think the term you're looking for is appropriating.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Wendy Cockcroft (profile), 16 Nov 2016 @ 5:57am

        Re: Re:

        I don't do the partisan thing. Both sides behave badly. We can argue about the degree if you like but I'm not giving anyone on either side a pass because I agree with them on some issues.

        If you're truly on the side of personal responsibility you shouldn't object to Pence disclosing how much taxpayer's money he spent fighting Obama over immigration.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Tyson (profile), 14 Nov 2016 @ 11:50am

    I know how to help

    Delete the emails, then say they were just about yoga.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DebbyS (profile), 14 Nov 2016 @ 11:54am

    Ask GWBush for advice on that...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Nov 2016 @ 11:55am

    Mike Pence is worse than Hillary and Trump combined.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Nov 2016 @ 12:00pm

    Easy answer

    Everything Pence and Trump does is for the good of others. They can do no wrong. If they need to hide something it is so that the eeevvviiilll people don't know their super awesome plans.

    Everything Clinton does is meant to kill as many cute puppies as possible (after first converting them to Islam and taking the parents into poverty whom they will then give away millions of dollars and free homes and stuff).



    But seriously: I am of the camp that everything done by a public official needs to available (after a specific period of time if classified) for a public records request. Complete, unedited and exactly as sent/received by the original source. The official does not get to decide what to send or hide.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Nov 2016 @ 12:27pm

    The courts can't say what has to be released under FOIA? Isn't that the way it's SUPPOSED to work? The legislature passes the FOIA, the courts decide whether someone's following those laws?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    DannyB (profile), 14 Nov 2016 @ 12:31pm

    An easier solution

    Dear Mike Pence, just use a secret email server. That has worked well for politicians in the past.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ben (profile), 14 Nov 2016 @ 4:58pm

      Re: An easier solution

      Secret? I think you meant private. How do you send email to a secret email server? sendto:mikepence@secretserver.net? I don't think so.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Andrew D. Todd, 14 Nov 2016 @ 12:32pm

    How To Impeach A President.

    Suppose you are back in the Watergate-time, in 1973-74. President Nixon needs to leave office for the common good. However, the Vice-President, Spiro Agnew, was chosen to pay debts in the Republican Party, and is not a suitable compromise candidate.

    So, it has to be a double impeachment. First you go after Agnew, for misconduct as governor of Maryland, before he became Vice-President. Now you bring in this stable, trustworthy guy, name of Gerald Ford, the (Republican) House Minority Leader, a moderate Republican who is _not_ in the line of succession, and you get the President to nominate him, to keep the office away from someone he dislikes even more, and the Democratic Congress confirms Ford, on a bipartisan basis.

    Having done that, you impeach the President, and Gerald Ford becomes the new president, He in turn nominates this other stable trustworthy guy, name of Nelson Rockefeller, the former governor of the state of New York, and sometime unsuccessful presidential candidate.

    So, in our own time, substitute Donald Trump for Richard Nixon, Mike Pence for Spiro Agnew, Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) for Gerald Ford, and, maybe John McCain for Nelson Rockefeller. The working majority in Congress for the operation will have to consist of both Republicans and Democrats. Shelley Moore Capito's father was Governor of West Virginia-- and went to prison for corruption. I think you can assume that she is a realist in a sense that some other people are not, and will not do crazy things either out of personal ego (Trump), or out of neo-conservative ideology (eg. Paul Ryan).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    David, 14 Nov 2016 @ 1:31pm

    Oh for heavens sake, get a grip.

    You want to get stuff disqualifying Mike Pence? Just take notes whenever he opens his mouth. What he wants to keep secret is probably a lot less worrisome than what he trumpets about proudly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Dreddsnik, 14 Nov 2016 @ 2:05pm

      Re: Oh for heavens sake, get a grip.

      "You want to get stuff disqualifying Mike Pence? Just take notes whenever he opens his mouth."

      We saw how well that strategy worked to disqualify Trump.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    blogagog (profile), 14 Nov 2016 @ 8:43pm

    Haha Clinton supporter Mesnick's butthurt is showing in this post. I can't lie and say I'm not enjoying it :).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 14 Nov 2016 @ 11:24pm

    "Government officials can just refuse to release or redact whatever they want and get away with it. That's not any way to create government transparency. It's a way to hide corruption and sketchy behavior."

    All you're really saying here is: "If you've done nothing wrong, you've got nothing to hide." If some official had said that to you, you would have given them 1,001 reasons that was not the case.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Aaron Walkhouse (profile), 14 Nov 2016 @ 11:53pm

    Attorney-client privilege does not apply…

    …before the attorney is hired.

    Details of the case or litigation can be redacted as the court
    sees fit but employment negotiations themselves are public records
    and are subject to FOIA requests as specifically public domain.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 15 Nov 2016 @ 5:00am

    Oh .. but this is different.

    No .. really - it is different, as in not the same.

    Stop laughing!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Lisboeta, 15 Nov 2016 @ 6:27am

    Can we therefore safely assume that:
    (a) there was something iffy about which law firm was hired and why?
    (b) taxpayers would, if they knew the cost, not like having to pay it?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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