Missouri State Auditor Dead in Apparent Suicide

Office of the Missouri State Auditor(JEFFERSON CITY, Mo.) -- Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon mourned the death of state auditor Tom Schweich on Thursday, calling him "a brilliant, devoted and accomplished public servant."

The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported that Schweich, the Republican state auditor and a contender for governor in next year's election, apparently committed suicide in his home on Thursday.

Nixon highlighted Schweich's contributions both locally and abroad, mentioning specifically "his courageous work to combat the illegal drug trade abroad in Afghanistan" and "his tireless efforts to protect the interests of taxpayers here in Missouri."

"Tom Schweich's exceptional intellect and unwavering dedication to public service left a legacy that will endure for many years to come," Nixon said in a statement.

Darlene Green, City of St. Louis Comptroller, offered prayers for "one of our great leaders here in Missouri," calling it "a day to put politics aside and reflect on the life and legacy of Tom Schweich," in a statement.

Schweich leaves behind a wife and two children.

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Eric Holder Reveals His Worst Day on the Job

Photo by Kris Connor/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Eric Holder’s days as attorney general are numbered. And in an interview with ABC News’ Pierre Thomas, he reflected on his six years leading a department that he first started working for at the age of 25, as a lawyer fresh out of Columbia Law School.

Leaving the department is “bittersweet...in the truest sense of the word,” Holder said, adding there’s some “satisfaction” in being the nation’s first African-American attorney general.

“I am aware of the historical significance of my appointment,” Holder conceded. “I am hoping that I've done a job that would make proud the people who made it possible; the people who sacrificed, the people who struggled, the people who dreamed, the people who gave their lives. I owe a special something to them.”

Nevertheless, Holder, 64, has had his ups and downs, and his share of controversies. Here’s how he described to ABC News some particular moments of his tenure:


Dec. 14, 2012: The day a 20-year-old opened fire inside Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, killing 20 children and six others. “I cried. The men and women who were up there that day cried. We hugged each other,” Holder told ABC News, recounting his visit to the school, where the carpets and bathroom were still stained with blood. “Those little angels were piled up almost like cord wood. …That was, without question, the worst day.”


“It’s hard to pick out any one day,” Holder said. “I have certainly liked the visits I’ve made around the country. I've had the opportunity to go to every district in this country. I think I'm the first attorney general to have done that.” Holder said other “good days” are those that let him “sit down with the career people, take pictures with them, hear about what it is they're doing, the problems that they are facing.”


Holder has been a lightning rod for Republican critics, who Holder suggested differ from him in that he’s “a person who likes to talk about facts and talk about policies that are going to change things that have too long been unaddressed.” But while he and many Republican have “butted heads,” they’ve also sat down for many meals together, according to Holder. “What you don't know about are the breakfasts I've had in my conference room with some of the same people who were yelling at me a couple of days before,” Holder recalled. “The lunches that we've had, the phone calls that we make, the progress that we've made, the legislation that we've passed by working together.”


“If you look at the work of this Justice Department, we have brought record numbers of cases against police departments around the country,” Holder told ABC News when asked about the department’s response to high-profile cases in Ferguson, Missouri, and Sanford, Florida. The Justice Department announced this week federal charges would not be filed against George Zimmerman for killing Trayvon Martin in 2012 after a confrontation with the unarmed teenager in Sanford. The outcomes of two federal probes tied to the fatal police shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson last year are still pending. “I'd say that in all the cases that we do, we've conducted an independent, thorough, investigation,” Holder said, adding his department has been “very aggressive” in bringing charges when appropriate. He promised to announce the results of the Ferguson probes before he leaves.


Holder had these words of advice for his successor: “Follow your experience, follow your heart, be a student of history, be unafraid.” Holder said Loretta Lynch, the U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, New York, who’s waiting to be confirmed by the full U.S. Senate, has all those qualities “in spades.” “I'm going to try to leave for Loretta as little [leftover work] as I possibly can, which is why I have been as active as I've been over these last few weeks,” Holder said. “I think she's going to be a great attorney general.”

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Boehner: 'Government Bureaucrats' Should 'Keep Their Hands Off the Internet'

ABC/Martin H. Simon(WASHINGTON) -- After the Federal Communications Commission voted on Thursday to impose "net neutrality" regulations, House Speaker John Boehner responded to the "misguided plan" by urging "overzealous government bureaucrats" to "keep their hands off the Internet."

"Today, three [bureaucrats] appointed by President Obama approved a secret plan to put the federal government in control of the Internet," Boehner said in a press release. Noting that the text of the proposal was kept hidden from the public and Congress, the speaker argued that the "total lack of transparency and accountability does not bode well for the future of a free and open Internet, not to mention the millions of Americans who use it every day."

Boehner's office notes that House Republican leaders sent a letter to the FCC chairman nearly a year ago calling for him to drop the consideration of such regulations. In November 2014, Boehner's office adds, the speaker warned that net neutrality regulations would hurt the American economy.

"The FCC is supposed to be an independent agency," Boehner continued, "but the White House has once again meddled where it shouldn't in order to advance what one commissioner has described as 'a solution that won't work to a problem that doesn't exist.'"

Boehner further compared the regulations to Obamacare, saying that the plan "may not work, but it will create years of uncertainty and lead to expensive legal fights."

Across the aisle, both Sen. Harry Reid and Rep. Nancy Pelosi supported the FCC's decision.

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Obama Celebrates Black History Month, Ahead of Selma Visit

The White House(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama celebrated African American History Month with an East Room reception at the White House on Thursday.

Obama thanked the parents of Trayvon Martin, the Florida boy whose death three years ago sparked a movement against racial profiling, for attending the reception at the White House.

“Today on the third anniversary of Trayvon Martin's death, showing all of our kids, all of them, every single day that their lives matter, that's a part of our task,” he said.

The Department of Justice on Tuesday closed a three-year investigation into the case, saying it would not file hate-crime charges against Trayvon's shooter, George Zimmerman.

Obama also said on Thursday that progress in the U.S. happens only because seemingly ordinary people find the courage to stand up for what is right.

“When I take Malia and Sasha and Michelle next week down to Selma, part of what I'm hoping to do is to remind of their own obligations because there's going to be marches for them to march,” he said.

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Why Ben Carson Thinks It’s Important For a Black Man To Run for President

ABC News(WASHINGTON) -- Retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson, who has captivated the conservative community and thrown himself into the pool of potential 2016 presidential contenders, told ABC News on Thursday that when it comes to politics, his race and upbringing give him “a great deal of perspective.”

“Having grown up in the lowest rungs, economically, of society and being able to rise through every level to the top and seeing what concerns people at all those different levels,” Carson told ABC’s Rick Klein. “The things that concern black people are really the same things that concern white people or brown people or yellow people.”

In an interview on the first day of this year’s Conservative Political Action conference being held outside Washington, D.C., Carson said it is “extremely important” to have leaders in the Republican Party who can speak to underrepresented communities.

He also cast himself as a person who is not “very partisan.”

“I think that partisanship is actually destroying our nation,” he said.

Carson weighed on the recent moves in some states to legalize marijuana (he is not a fan) as well as the recent debate over vaccinations.

In his speech to the conservative gathering, the Maryland doctor called on people to become more engaged in politics.

"We need to talk to our uncle who hasn't voted in 20 years, go to your grandma who's an invalid and make sure she has an absentee ballot, help her fill it out. The baton is ours, freedom is not free, it must be fought for."

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Senate Vote On DHS Expected Late Friday

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate is expected to vote Friday on a bill to fund the Department of Homeland Security without any amendments to stop President Obama's executive orders on immigration.  

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-KY, said late Thursday that senators will vote on a so-called “clean” bill that deals solely with funding the department.

The House and Senate have been at an impasse for days, with Democrats and some moderate Republicans slamming conservative Republicans for holding funding hostage in order to block the president's executive actions on immigration.

Without funding, parts of the Department of Homeland Security would shut down.

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In CPAC Speech, Scott Walker Says He Can Take on ISIS

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker compared the nation’s fight against ISIS with the thousands of protesters that came to Madison, Wisconsin, in 2011, telling attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference Thursday that he is equipped to take on the terrorist group because of his experience during those protests.

Walker said as governor he gets a “threat assessment” from the FBI and he has been “concerned about the threat” posed by ISIS and other terrorist groups, saying he wants a commander-in-chief who will “do everything in their power to ensure the threat from radical Islamic terrorists will not come to American soil," adding the country needs a “leader with confidence.”

“If I can take on 100,000 protesters, I can do the same across the world,” said Walker, wearing his sleeves rolled up, referring to his high-profile face-off with public-employee unions.

Walker focused on foreign policy during his CPAC speech in National Harbor, Maryland, with cheers from the crowd. His speech to the group of conservative activists was highly anticipated after his well-received speech to the Iowa Freedom Summit last month. Supporters chanted “Run, Scott, Run” at the end of his address.

“I’ve run three time in the last four years, so I’m getting pretty used to it,” he responded.

The Democratic National Committee responded to Walker's comments, with DNC Communications Director Mo Elleithee saying in a statement, "If Scott Walker thinks that it's appropriate to compare working people speaking up for their rights to brutal terrorists, then he is even less qualified to be president than I thought. Maybe he should go back to punting.”

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Bobby Jindal Pitches Himself as a ‘Full-Spectrum Conservative’ Ahead of 2016 Presidential Race

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- Louisiana governor and likely 2016 candidate Bobby Jindal says voters are looking for the next Republican presidential nominee to be “a fighter.”

And though he has yet to formally announce his candidacy, Jindal described himself as someone who is “unafraid to tell the truth” even if he’s attacked for doing it.

“I gave a speech in London about the threat of radical Islamic terrorism…I was called racist, an anti-Muslim, it's not true but I think people are looking for a fighter," Jindal said during an interview with ABC News’ Rick Klein on the sidelines of CPAC.

In looking ahead to the future of the party, Jindal said the GOP needs to work on expanding its appeal to people across all socio-economic and age groups.

“We need to be party of everybody,” Jindal said. “We need to fight for a 100 percent of the votes.”

On the topic of Jeb Bush – who many view as the presumptive Republican front-runner -- Jindal said that voters will ultimately decide who the next nominee is.

“The good news is that voters want to pick their own candidate, their own nominee,” he said. “The establishment, the donors, media, governors, others don't get to decide; let the voters decide.”

Asked about Washington, D.C.’s recent move to legalize marijuana for private use, Jindal said he believes it’s “a mistake” to legalize marijuana for any use other than medicinal.

“I don't think anyone should be legalizing marijuana, I think that's a mistake,” he said. “When it comes to the issue of medical marijuana, I've said as long as it is done under tight restrictions, I can be okay with that."

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Sen. Jim Inhofe Throws Snowball on Senate Floor in Attempt to Debunk Climate Change

US Congress(WASHINGTON) -- This may be a congressional first.

Sen. Jim Inhofe, a devoted climate change denier, tossed a snowball at someone on the Senate floor Thursday as he tried to debunk climate change.

“In case we had forgotten because we keep hearing that 2014 has been the warmest year on record, I ask the chair: You know what this is? It's a snowball and that just from outside here so it's very, very cold out. Very unseasonal,” he said.

“So, Mr. President, catch this,” Inhofe, R-Okla., said on the Senate floor, tossing the snowball to someone off-screen as he tried to suppress a smile.

“We hear the perpetual headline that 2014 has been the warmest year on record but now the script has flipped and I think it's important since we hear it over and over and over,” Inhofe, 80, said. “As we can see with the snowball out there, this is today. This is reality.”

This isn't the first time Inhofe has used snow to make a point about climate change. After a massive snowstorm in the Washington, D.C., area in 2010, Inhofe and his family famously built an igloo and labeled it "Al Gore's New Home."

The Environmental Protection Agency's website says, "Rising global average temperature is associated with widespread changes in weather patterns. Scientific studies indicate that extreme weather events such as heat waves and large storms are likely to become more frequent or more intense with human-induced climate change."

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Chris Christie Turns to Media Bashing at CPAC Gathering 

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call(WASHINGTON) -- New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie continued to bash the media Thursday at the Conservative Political Action Conference, playing into a popular topic among the activists in the crowd, saying “elite folks from the media” cover him “every day.”

“Understand where I come from every day,” Christie told radio talk show host Laura Ingraham in a question-and-answer session in National Harbor, Maryland, after she asked him about the “onslaught” of negative news stories about him recently.

As the governor of New Jersey, Christie told her he has reporters from The New York Times covering him every day, and accused journalists of taking sides on issues he has stood up against.

“When you do things like I’ve done in New Jersey, take on a lot of these special interests that they support they just want to kill you and that’s what they tried to do to me every day and here’s the bad news for them, here I am and I’m still standing,” Christie, 52, said.

The governor added he will “continue to do what matters more,” which is “knowing how to fight for the people for my state and I don’t care what they write about me in the New York Times. I don’t subscribe, by the way,” getting cheers from the audience.

Christie even mentioned the newspaper in a somewhat veiled attack against a possible GOP rival, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker. Christie said the “reason why the New York Times writes awful things about me is because every time I read something they disagree with I don’t change my mind, I stick with where I’ve been.”

“So when you are pro-life in 2009, you don’t cut a commercial four years later because the New York Times doesn’t like it and say you are less than that,” Christie said, referring to Walker’s anti-abortion rights position, which he softened publicly last year in a gubernatorial re-election ad saying he would leave “the final decision to a woman and her doctor.”

This is the second day in a row Christie has taken on the media, specifically The New York Times, possibly laying out a theme that tends to be popular with the conservative primary voting base and something he can return to in a 2016 stump speech.

On his monthly radio call-in show, Ask the Governor, he was asked Wednesday night about his rough trip to the United Kingdom earlier this month. He blamed the bad headlines on “the national media following you around trying to justify their airfare going over there.”

As for his famously tough-talking style, Ingraham asked him about negative words used to describe him, including “explosive” and a “hothead” and whether that temperament works for the president of the United States. Christie answered “the word they missed is passionate.”

Ingraham countered by asking whether “sit down and shut up” is really necessary, referring to Christie’s famous line he used after being heckled by an activist in October.

Christie didn’t hesitate: “Sometimes people need to be told to sit down and shut up.”

He then said the same sentiment should be directed at the Obama administration.

“Quite frankly Laura, some more of that stuff should be happening in Washington, D.C., because there is so much ridiculous stuff,” Christie said. “Especially out of the White House someone should say it’s time to shut up.”

Ingraham also asked Christie about tough primary competition he is likely to go up against if he gets into the 2016 race for the White House, including former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, and Christie said don’t count him out.

“I’ll take my chances on me, I’ve done pretty well so far,” he said.

He even ended his session with another jab at The New York Times when Ingraham asked Christie, a Catholic, what he gave up for Lent. Christie said he went to his priest and told him. “I’m giving the New York Times up for Lent.” He got more cheers from the audience, but told them “don’t cheer, it’s bad news.”

He said his priest answered, “Chris, you have to give up something you’ll actually miss.”

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