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Mike Pence in legal fight to keep email secret

Mike Pence's emails
Mike Pence's emails 03:22

Vice president-elect Mike Pence is the latest Washingtonian found at the cross-hairs of an email controversy that could provide a glimpse into how a Trump administration would respond to issues of government transparency, the Indianapolis Star first reported.

At the core of the privacy debate is an email belonging to the former Indiana governor, according to CBS News’ Justice Correspondent Paula Reid. William Groth, a lawyer, filed a public records lawsuit to reveal the contents of the message, which allegedly shows how a group of 17 states planned to legally dismantle President Obama’s executive orders on immigration.

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“I think governmental transparency is an important concern of anyone who lives in a democracy -- the governor cannot put himself above the law,” Groth told the IndyStar.

Pence’s administration joined a coalition of states led by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott following President Obama’s 2014 executive actions taken to expand immigration relief, which these states saw as an overreach of executive power. Pence, in attempts to guide the litigation process, sought advice from an outside legal firm-- prompting Groth to file a lawsuit.

Groth’s request was granted, and Pence produced the documents. A trove of information was subsequently made public, except for an attached “white paper” -- an email sent to Pence by a political ally that is said to reveal the legal tactics that would be used to challenge the president’s use of executive power. Groth sued to obtain that information, but state court decisions sided with Pence, saying that the former governor has the right to say what is and isn’t a public record, Reid explained.

This latest lawsuit follows a tumultuous presidential campaign season in which the emails of Hillary Clinton and her staff played a major role. Pence’s approach to this lawsuit--whether to settle, or hand over the redacted information--could create a sense of mistrust among Trump supporters who hounded Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton for her secretive handling of a private email server.

Groth has appealed the decision, and the Indiana Court of Appeals is set to hear oral arguments in Indianapolis next week.

CBS News’ Justice Correspondent Paula Reid contributed to this report.

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