Rep. Steny Hoyer wrongly claimed that Vice President Mike Pence “used a private server when he was governor of Indiana.” Pence did use a personal AOL account for some government business, but he did not have a “private server.”
The Maryland Democrat was asked about President Donald Trump’s tweet early that morning criticizing Attorney General Jeff Sessions for taking a “VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes.” Trump referenced Clinton’s use of a private server and private email account to conduct business while she was secretary of state under President Barack Obama.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions has taken a VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes (where are E-mails & DNC server) & Intel leakers!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 25, 2017
Trump’s tweet is also problematic.
For starters, Sessions cannot take any position on an investigation concerning the presidential campaign. As a former adviser to the Trump campaign, the attorney general has recused himself from “any existing or future investigations of any matters related in any way to the campaigns for President of the United States.” (Trump’s mention of the “DNC server” is a reference to the Russian government’s hacking of the Democratic National Committee computer systems. Former FBI Director James Comey has testified that his agency asked DNC officials for access to the party’s servers after they were hacked, but the DNC refused the requests. There is no evidence that Clinton committed any “crimes” regarding the security breach of the DNC servers, and any campaign-related investigation would be covered by Sessions’ recusal.)
We also note that the FBI did investigate Clinton’s email use, and the FBI director at the time recommended that no charges be brought against her or her aides — a recommendation that was accepted by then-U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch.
CNN’s Chris Cuomo asked Hoyer about the president’s criticism of his own attorney general. Hoyer dismissed it as a distraction. But in doing so, he got the facts wrong.
Hoyer, July 25: Well, you know, there’s no smoke there, frankly, and this business about the use of the private server. Pence used a private server when he was governor of Indiana. I just think, frankly, all of that is distractions.
As the Indianapolis Star revealed in March, Pence “routinely” used a personal AOL account to conduct government business. The paper obtained nearly 30 such emails through a public records request, and an official with the vice president’s office told the paper that those were a small fraction of state-business messages associated with the AOL account.
But, contrary to Hoyer’s statement, Pence did not have a private server, nor did he use his personal email account exclusively for government business, as Clinton did. Pence also used a state government account.
There are other significant differences between the email practices of the two public officials.
The state of Indiana does not prohibit the use of personal email for government business as long as the emails are preserved, and the former governor took steps before he left office to preserve them, the Star story said. “Pence’s office said his campaign hired outside counsel as he was departing as governor to review his AOL emails and transfer any involving public business to the state,” the paper wrote.
In Clinton’s case, the State Department’s inspector general said the department has had policies dating to 2005 that require “normal day-to-day operations” to be conducted on government servers. While occasional use of personal email for State business is permitted, Clinton should have turned over all work-related emails before she left office and did not until 21 months later.
Also, the IG said department policies adopted in 2007 required that non-department servers used to “process or store department information” meet the same security controls as the department’s systems and be registered with the department. Clinton did not adhere to either policy, according to an IG report issued May 26, 2016. (For more, see our story “IG Report on Clinton’s Emails.”)
Hoyer is entitled to his opinion about Trump’s tweet, but in defending Clinton, he gets the facts wrong about Pence’s use of personal email for government business.