Yellowstone and other areas in Montana have been devastated by recent floods, while the governor of the state has been conspicuously absent. Amid a slew of criticism, Gov. Greg Gianforte's office said he was returning home Thursday night from a "long-scheduled personal trip" out of the country, which he and his wife left on last week, KTVH and the Montana Free Press report. "The governor is returning early and as quickly as possible," a rep said Wednesday. His office did not say where the couple went, but a Newsy reporter says the outlet has a time-stamped photo showing he was in Italy.
Gianforte's office says he's been in regular communication and has been getting briefings on what's going on in the state. He verbally authorized a disaster declaration in the state Monday, and Lieutenant Gov. Kristen Juras, as acting governor, signed the state disaster declaration and a major disaster declaration request to the federal government, which President Biden approved, per NBC News. She has also been touring impacted areas to assess the damage at Gianforte's request. The Montana Free Press notes Gianforte's office was not exactly forthcoming with information when asked about the governor's whereabouts by the news outlet multiple times, and heavy criticism of the Republican governor has followed. (Read more Montana stories.)