Updated Apr 4, 2018

Paul Ryan-backed PAC raises $15 million in first quarter of 2018

House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell at the White House. Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images

The Congressional Leadership Fund, a conservative super PAC linked to House Speaker Paul Ryan, announced Wednesday that they raised $15 million in the the first quarter of 2018 — a record for the PAC and up from the $1.3 million raised in Q1 of 2016, the previous election year.

State of play: Courtney Alexander, communications director of CLF and American Action Network, another conservative group tied to Ryan, told Axios that the group plans to place a high priority on raising money early on rather than waiting to raise and spend toward the end of the cycle. The aggressive approach so early on in the election cycle shows how competitive conservative groups expect the midterm elections to be and offers an inside look at how they plan to defend the Republican majority.

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Clyburn: Sanders' "socialist" label will be "extra burden" in House races

Clyburn with Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) said on ABC's "This Week" Sunday that Sen. Bernie Sanders' identification as a democratic socialist may be an "extra burden" in down-ballot House races if he were to win the Democratic nomination.

Why it matters: Clyburn's comments echo fears from many establishment Democrats, who worry the House majority they won in 2018 by taking moderate seats carried by President Trump could be at risk with Sanders at the top of the ticket.

O'Brien rejects intelligence report of Russia effort to re-elect Trump

National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien. Photo: Chris Usher/CBS via Getty Images

White House national security adviser Robert O'Brien repeatedly rejected on ABC's "This Week" an assessment from a congressional briefing led by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election to help President Trump get re-elected.

Why it matters: The report put the Trump administration under fresh scrutiny in regard to steps it has been taking to combat the kind of interference that the U.S. encountered in 2016.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 31 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Italy becomes site of largest coronavirus outbreak outside of Asia

Data: The Center for Systems Science and Engineering at Johns Hopkins, the CDC, and China's Health Ministry. Note: China numbers are for the mainland only and U.S. numbers include repatriated citizens.

The novel coronavirus has spread to more nations as South Korea and Italy step up emergency measures in their countries amid rising case numbers on Sunday.

The big picture: COVID-19 has killed at least 2,462 people and infected almost 79,000 others, mostly in mainland China. South Korea increased the infectious disease alert to red, the highest possible, as its case numbers jumped to 602 and the death toll to five. Italy's government announced emergency measures as it confirmed a spike from three to 132 cases in matter of days, making it the largest outbreak outside of Asia.

Go deeperArrowUpdated 2 hours ago - Health