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The Journal Gazette

  • Associated Press Vice President Mike Pence arrives for a Republican party conference Wednesday at the Capitol.

Friday, March 17, 2017 10:01 pm

Email Pence fought to hide no big deal

It turns out that email attachment Mike Pence has spent two years trying to keep secret wasn’t some dark, conspiratorial document after all.

An online publication called Rewire.news decided not to wait for the Indiana Supreme Court to rule on whether the public should be able to see the strategy piece by the Texas attorney general’s office on how to oppose President Barack Obama’s immigration policy.

Rewire obtained the electronic document, which had also been sent to other governors and attorneys general around the country, by making public records requests in other states.

Once a champion of open government, Pence waged a sustained battle to keep the “Legal Analysis Supporting a Lawsuit Against Unlawful Presidential Action on Immigration” hidden from the prying eyes of average citizens. Pence even argued the governor’s office should be exempt from the courts on the open-records law.

A decision by the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed his right to keep the attachment secret but rejected his I’m-above-the-law argument. It has been appealed to the Indiana Supreme Court by the Indianapolis lawyer who filed the original suit.

Now, the document has been revealed as the kind of off-the-shelf challenge to “the scope of executive authority” so popular among Republicans when a Democrat was in the White House. There’s nothing scandalous or furtive or embarrassing in the essay – if you overlook that the presidential overreach it describes could now be inverted into an argument against President Donald Trump’s anti-immigration orders.

So why has Pence fought so hard to keep the legal analysis secret? He used to speak eloquently about how essential transparency was to the democratic process. Perhaps the vice president, who was recently revealed to have used a private email account to do public business while he was governor, is developing a different philosophy of government.