Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.
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(CNN) – Russia began large-scale air defense drills 280 miles east from its border with Ukraine Thursday, according to Russian state news.
But White House deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes downplayed the surprise military exercises in an interview with CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper."
(CNN) – Republicans came out swinging today at the Conservative Political Action Conference, better known as CPAC.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell came out armed, walking onto CPAC's stage bearing a rifle. The gun was a life-time achievement award gift from the National Rifle Association that he handed off to his retiring colleague, Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn, who is leaving his term early for health reasons.
But the more common weapon in the room was words.
"We have long thought and said this president is a smart man. It may be time to revisit that assumption," Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal said.
Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan called it a "family reunion" but there were really two competing visions on display at CPAC.
(CNN) – Lawmakers in Crimea voted Thursday in favor of leaving the country for Russia and putting it to a regional vote in 10 days.
It's an act that drew widespread condemnation, with Ukrainian interim Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk calling the effort to hold such a referendum "an illegitimate decision."
(CNN) – Texas Gov. Rick Perry has made no secret he is contemplating the possibility of running for President in 2016. But though the Republican Party often nominates candidates who have run before that strategy is rarely successful.
In an interview with CNN's "The Lead with Jake Tapper," Perry said he learned a lot from his 2012 campaign experience when he exited the primaries early on.
"I won't have major back surgery six weeks before the announcement," says Perry, of the next possible run for the White House.
When he announced his presidential bid in August 2011, Perry said he felt invincible, telling himself: "I'm 61 years old, I'm bulletproof, I'm 10-feet tall, I can do anything."
But 2012 was "a very humbling experience."
Washington (CNN) - House Speaker John Boehner said Rep. Darrell Issa was justified in ending an acrimonious hearing on IRS targeting of conservative groups - a meeting concluded when Issa cut the hearing room microphones with his harshest critic on the panel, Rep. Elijah Cummings, in mid sentence.
"From what I understand, I think Mr. Issa was in his rights to adjourn the hearing," Boehner told reporters on Thursday.
The Congressional Black Caucus wants Issa removed as House Oversight Committee chairman following Wednesday's uproar, which it sees as the latest in a series of disrespectful responses to pushback from Democrats during hearings on the IRS matter.