Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-Mont.) rejected the notion Saturday that he and his former State Director Melodee Hanes were having an affair, saying Hanes began the process of transitioning out of his office after they began a personal relationship in 2008.
Mel and I have a wonderful relationship. We are living together and enjoying spending time with each other and our families. I'm as happy as I've ever been. Mel and I were both separated from our former spouses when we got together. It wasn't an affair. As we grew closer and things progressed, we knew it was time to begin the process of Mel transitioning out of my Senate office, Baucus said in his first statement since his office acknowledged the relationship late Friday night.
Baucus also sought to tamp down any lingering questions about the fact that he nominated Hanes, a former Yellowstone County prosecutor, to become a U.S. attorney in Montana.
As a highly qualified prosecutor who tried more than 100 jury trials and as a former law professor, Mel would have been an excellent U.S. Attorney for Montana. She is widely regarded as an expert in child abuse prosecution. I for one did not want her relationship with me to disqualify her from applying for the position. I appointed an independent, third-party reviewer and established an open and fair process that resulted in 3 names being sent, unranked, to the White House for consideration, Baucus said in the statement.
Additionally, Baucus said that, in the end, we decided it would be best for Mel to withdraw her name from consideration. That also allowed us to live together in Washington, where Mel applied independently with the Department of Justice, and, not surprisingly to anyone who's looked at her resume, got the DOJ job on her merit.