April 01, 2023

🥸 Happy April Fool's Day! Axios' Erica Pandey is your Saturday host — reach her at [email protected].

  • Smart Brevity™ count: 1,338 words ... 5 minutes. Edited by TuAnh Dam.

1 big thing: Trump builds a Hill firewall

Data: Axios research; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals
Data: Axios research; Chart: Erin Davis/Axios Visuals

Powerful Republican lawmakers have rushed to endorse former President Trump for president in '24 before the Republican field has even formed.

Why it matters: That helps cement Trump's formidable lead for the GOP nomination as he heads into a legal blind alley — and will help him dig dirt on his political and legal foes, Axios' Sophia Cai reports.

Trump has been endorsed by five GOP senators and 37 House Republicans — including more than one-third of the GOP members on Judiciary and Oversight, which he's pushing to investigate President Biden and Manhattan's District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

  • Trump, who is to be arraigned Tuesday in Manhattan, chats often by phone with House Judiciary chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) and GOP Conference chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) to discuss probes of Biden and Bragg.

Jordan and Stefanik — also members of a new Judiciary subcommittee targeting the "weaponization" of law enforcement against conservatives — are key players in Trump's orbit.

  • Their committees have already tried — so far unsuccessfully — to get documents and testimony from Bragg's probe into hush-money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels.
New York Post covers, yesterday and today

🖼️ The big picture: Trump has kept a grip on the GOP base even as he's faced criminal investigations in New York and Georgia, and by the Justice Department.

  • Trump's campaign announced raising over $4 million in the first 24 hours after news of his indictment became public, and said 25% of the donations came from first-time donors to the Trump campaign.
  • The campaign tells Axios that 16,000+ volunteers signed up on his website in 24 hours.

Nine of the 25 Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee support him.

  • So do 11 of the 26 Republicans on House Oversight.

Other notable House Republicans endorsing Trump include Jim Banks (Ind.), who's running for Senate, Small Business Committee chair Roger Williams (Texas), Veterans Affairs chair Mike Bost (Ill.) and Ronny Jackson (Texas).

  • Trump's endorsements in the Senate: Lindsey Graham (S.C.), Tommy Tuberville (Ala.), J.D. Vance (Ohio), Eric Schmitt (Mo.), and Markwayne Mullin (Okla.).

🔎 Behind the scenes: In recent weeks, Jackson and Stefanik have been calling House colleagues on Trump's behalf, asking for endorsements, people familiar with the calls tell Axios.

  • Team Trump has been keeping close tabs on who has endorsed — and who hasn't.

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2. 💼 Wanted: AI whisperer (salary up to $335,000)

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

The artificial intelligence job market is hot — offering salaries of up to $335,000 a year to help sharpen the technology of the future.

  • What's happening: Anthropic, an AI company backed by Alphabet, is advertising for the role of prompt engineer with sky-high pay.

But you don't necessarily need to be a coder to do the job.

  • Prompt engineers are like "AI whisperers," Albert Phelps, who's a prompt engineer himself, told Bloomberg.
  • “You’ll often find [they] come from a history, philosophy, or English language background, because it’s wordplay. You're trying to distill the essence or meaning of something into a limited number of words.”

The AI whisperers are tasked with writing prompts to teach AI's like ChatGPT to produce smarter results. And they also help train companies on how to best use AI.

  • If you, like millions of others, have played around with ChatGPT, you're engaging in some prompt engineering yourself.

3. 🇷🇺 New fears about Russia reporting

Left: Evan Gershkovich of The Wall Street Journal in 2021. Right: Gershkovich is transferred from a court in Moscow on Thursday. Both: AFP via Getty Images

The arrest of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich on espionage charges in Russia has news organizations weighing whether the risks of reporting there during wartime are too great, AP's David Bauder writes.

  • The latest: More than 30 press freedom groups and news organizations, including The New York Times and The Washington Post, signed a letter yesterday to Anatoly I. Antonov, Russia’s ambassador to the U.S.

“Russia is sending the message that journalism within your borders is criminalized and that foreign correspondents seeking to report from Russia do not enjoy the benefits of the rule of law,” they said.

  • What to watch: Diplomats and legal experts say it's unlikely Gershkovich will immediately be freed. Russian espionage trials are held in secret and almost always end in a conviction, The Journal reports.

"His sole purpose in his work is to capture issues occurring around the world and to shed light on them so that the public can make informed decisions about how to navigate the future," Emma Tucker, The Journal's editor-in-chief, said in a statement.

  • "We continue to call for his immediate release. The unjust arrest of one of our own sits heavy with all of us, and I know for many there are lingering questions about what the Russian government’s actions mean for freedom of the press in the region."

Go deeper with Reuters' profile of Gershkovich's life and work.

4.🏀 Charted: Inside the Final Four

Data: NCAA, Sports Reference; Note: No NCAA Tournament held in 2020; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios
Data: NCAA, Sports Reference; Note: No NCAA Tournament held in 2020; Chart: Simran Parwani/Axios

There won't be a single 1, 2 or 3 seed in the men’s Final Four today — the first time that's ever happened, Axios' Simran Parwani writes.

  • By the numbers: The sum of the four teams' seed rankings (No. 9 Florida Atlantic, No. 5 Miami, No. 5 San Diego State and No. 4 UConn) is 23. Only the 2011 Men’s Final Four had a higher seed total, at 26.

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5. 📸 For the history books

Photo: Tony Gutierrez/AP

Above: An all-women officiating crew stands for the national anthem at the LSU versus Virginia Tech game yesterday.

  • It's the first time ever that all female officials are working the women's semifinal and championship games, AP reports. The historic moment comes as the NCAA celebrates the 50th anniversary of Title IX this year.

📺 Catch up quick: The women's championship matchup is set for tomorrow at 3:30 p.m. ET — No. 2 Iowa vs. No. 3 LSU.

6. Covering America: Blue-state push on trans health

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

While Republican politicians in some states work to limit gender-affirming care for transgender young people, a number of Democratic-controlled legislatures are doing the opposite, Axios Twin Cities' Torey Van Oot and Axios Seattle's Melissa Santos write.

Why it matters: Leading medical associations say gender-affirming care can be medically necessary treatment for transgender young people and helps reduce their likelihood of committing suicide.

  • Opponents of trans rights have argued that kids are too young to make decisions about gender-related medical interventions, PBS reports.

Reality check: These blue states are in the minority compared to the slew of Republican pushes to restrict access.

  • Nationwide, more than 100 pieces of state legislation have been introduced to ban or restrict such health care for minors, according to data from the American Civil Liberties Union.
  • Iowa, Kentucky and Georgia were among the latest GOP-controlled states to act this month, joining Utah, Mississippi, South Dakota and Tennessee in banning gender-affirming health care for transgender youth.

More from Torey and Melissa.

7. 🛍️ Data du jour

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Shoplifting costs retailers nearly $100 billion a year, according to a National Retail Federation report.

  • It's not just petty crimes. There was a 26.5% uptick in organized retail theft in 2021 — stealing, often in bulk, with the intention of reselling.

👀 Retailers are trying a range of preventive steps to curb crime, from locking up goods to license-plate recognition tech, per Retail Brew. Some chains, like Target and Walmart, are also shuttering at-risk stores.

8. 🥸 Prank products

Photo illustration: Courtesy of Nissin Foods

Be on the lookout for April Fools’ Day jokes and pranks today, including fake product announcements, Axios' Kelly Tyko writes.

  • In 2021, Volkswagen announced a few days before April Fools' that it was changing its name to Voltswagen, only to admit that it was a prank.

Yes, but: Some products that sound like pranks turn out to be real.

  • When we heard Nissin Foods launched "Cup Noodles Breakfast" at Walmart this week, we immediately were suspicious of the limited-edition product that “blends ramen with your favorite breakfast flavors, including pancakes, maple syrup, sausage and eggs.”
  • But Nissin Foods confirmed to Axios that the product is indeed for sale at 3,000 select Walmart stores and online.

Also not a joke: The Van Leeuwen limited-run Hidden Valley Ranch ice cream, which Axios NW Arkansas co-author Worth Sparkman recently taste-tested.