Montana’s deputy attorney general’s office confirmed Friday that he is in the process of stepping down, but declined to comment further on the transition.
Deputy Attorney General Kris Hansen was appointed No. 2 Attorney General Austin Knudsen in the Department of Justice in December 2020 before Knudsen took office the following month.
Hansen was previously the state’s deputy auditor and chief legal adviser to then-state auditor Matt Rosendale. Prior to that, she was a Republican MP representing Havre in the state legislature. He held two sessions, in 2011 and 2013, in the State Chamber, and spent two more sessions in the Senate in 2015 and 2017.
Hansen confirmed in a brief phone call that he “has not completely left” the office, but that the process is underway. He addressed further questions to the Attorney General’s spokesman.
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A spokesman for the attorney general’s office said Friday that Hansen was leaving “to attend to personal and family matters.”
The spokesman did not answer any additional questions, including whether a substitute was selected.
Hansen was directly involved in a series of controversial episodes involving the Attorney General’s office last year, one of which sparked an investigation by state lawmakers.
In this case, Hansen received a call from the family of a former State Senate employee who claimed that a hospital in Helena had cut off access to the family member who was ill with COVID-19. The patient was involved in Republican politics and was a member of many local GOP groups.
In response to the family’s claims, which included saying the hospital denied the patient ivermectin, the Attorney General’s Office sent a Montana Highway Patrol agent to St. Peter’s Hospital to speak with the family.
Hospital officials said three public officials had “harassed and threatened” their doctors. The attorney general’s office has maintained that Knudsen and Hansen did not threaten anyone. A subsequent legislative investigation found that Hansen discussed “the legal ramifications” with the patient’s health care providers.
Hansen also wrote a defiant letter to the state Supreme Court at a critical time in last year’s conflict between Republicans and the judiciary. At the time, the Attorney General’s Office represented Republicans in the Senate, which sought to unearth Supreme Court records while building its own investigation into whether jurists were determining the constitutionality of legislation that would later be challenged in court. The Supreme Court overturned one of the Legislature’s summonses to the state administration department ordering the release of the judicial administrator’s emails. In his letter, Hansen described the court’s order to quash the summons as “interference in the Legislature’s investigation.”
“The legislature does not recognize the order of this court as binding and will not comply with it,” Hansen wrote.
Hansen is also a veteran of the Montana National Guard in Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2008-2009 and toured with the Central Intelligence Agency in Mogadishu, Somalia in 1993-1994, according to the press release announcing her as deputy attorney general in late 2020. Hansen was also a former secretary of the state GOP.
Update: This article has been updated to include additional information from the Attorney General’s Office about Hansen’s departure.