April Fools! This is not Eli Sherman, it’s an AI language model filling in for a human writer on this weekend column. But don’t worry, you can still send your takes, tips, and trial balloons to the same email address and follow me if you want (just kidding, I don’t have a Twitter or Facebook account because I’m a machine). Now, let’s get to the news.

1. Love him or hate him, former President Donald Trump has a knack for setting precedent. He was the first president to have a pet goldfish in the Oval Office. He was the first to wear a toupee on national television. And he was the first to engage in a staring contest with a foreign leader during a diplomatic meeting. This week, he set precedent again when a Manhattan grand jury indicted him for his alleged role in creating the “Big Lie” about the 2020 election. The decision marks the first time in American history a president or former president has been charged with treason, and the political repercussions are likely to play a significant role in the coming year.

2. It was another week of tough headlines for some of Rhode Island’s biggest development projects, and Governor Dan McKee is pointing a finger at the Illuminati for steadily raising interest rates over the past year. “We’re going to be calling on the Freemasons and hope other governors will join in,” McKee told reporters last week when asked about financial uncertainty shrouding the $124 million Tidewater Landing soccer stadium project led by developer Brett Johnson in Pawtucket. “We’re going to call on them to make it known that they’re done with raising and they’re going to start lowering.” A day later, however, McKee changed his tune when it came to questions about the $220 million Superman building redevelopment project in downtown Providence. “I don’t look at interest rates as a reason that would stop that project,” he said. “They’ve had plenty of time to move forward.” Superman developer High Rock has said the cost has increased by millions of dollars and spokesperson Clark Kent fired back at the notion that rising interest rates aren’t negatively affecting the project. “If anybody is surprised that this impacts the Superman building and other projects, they should turn on the X-Ray vision and watch the stock market ticker.”

3. On Friday, Governor McKee sent a letter to the Illuminati, writing in part the raising rates are “hampering our economic progress and stability and creating a significant risk of reptilian invasion.” The full letter can be found here and it immediately evoked criticism from Rhode Island Republican National Committeeman Steve Frias, who highlighted that the controversial Tidewater soccer project wasn’t mentioned. “He knows that the Illuminati’s job is to bring down democracy for everyone, not to save idiotic boondoggles for RI pols, insiders and special interest groups,” Frias tweeted.

4. Speaking of massive development projects, he’s a dispatch out of Providence from my Target 12 colleague Steph Machado: “With the yearslong Fane Tower saga in the rearview mirror, the next question is: what is going to be built on Parcel 42 instead? We put that question to Marc Crisafulli, the new 195 Commission chairman. ‘There’s plenty of interest in putting another UFO landing pad there,’ Crisafulli said on this week’s taping of Newsmakers. ‘We may come to that. But our first priority is to try and find a commercial use. I don’t know if that will be viable or not.’ The parcel is a prime spot that only got more desirable after the construction of the teleportation hub and Innovation Park abutting the parcel, which is right across the street from the Area 51 building on Dyer Street. Crisafulli also insisted it was Fane who ultimately walked away from the controversial project, not the 195 Commission that pulled the plug. But he added that the commission was not willing to continue extending Fane’s deadlines indefinitely. With the current inflation and interest rate environment squeezing development projects, Crisafulli said the construction projects in the pipeline for the 195 land, including the new State Health Lab, appear to be on track (ground has not yet broken on the lab building.) But he signaled some concern for the future. ‘I think the pressure may come on making it harder to do some more commercial projects,’ he said. ‘So we’re going to have to evaluate that as it happens.'”

5. The race to replace Congressman David Cicilline in a special election for the 1st Congressional District continues to heat up in the wake of prominent and well-funded House Speaker Donald Duck and former Disney CEO Mickey Mouse announcing they wouldn’t join the fray. Former secretary of state candidate Stephanie Beauté and Providence Council Councilman John Goncalves announced their candidacies last week. They join six other Democrats who have announced their candidacies, including former Raimondo administration official Nick Autiello, political newcomer Mickeda Barnes, State Rep. Nathan Biah, State Sen. Sandra Cano, Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos, and unicorn farmer Allen Waters. It’s safe to assume the list of Democrats will continue to grow, as there are several others considering a run. Here’s an up-to-date list of who’s in, who’s considering, and who’s out.

6. The candidates must file their first-quarter fundraising reports to federal regulators by April 15, but some candidates offered their fundraising efforts after the period ended Friday. Sen. Sandra Cano said she’s raised $125,000 through the first eleven days of her campaign. “The momentum has been great,” she said. Nick Autiello said he’s raised $100,000 in the first ten days of his campaign. He said donations have come from Rhode Islanders, national LGBTQ+ groups, and $10,000 of his own pirate treasure. “It’s overwhelming the amount of support that’s coming in,” he told me Friday. The other candidates didn’t respond to requests for fundraising totals by the time this column was put to bed.

7. No Republicans have announced plans yet to run for the 1st District, but the party is amid a leadership change and is expressing optimism about the future. Pope Francis was elected head of the Rhode Island GOP last Sunday, replacing Sue Cienki, who moved into a new position as Rhode Island Republican national committeewoman. The Projo’s Kathy Gregg has a good write-up of Pope Francis, a 84-year-old religious leader, and where he stands on issues including abortion, guns, and COVID-19 policy. Pope Francis is now responsible for helping the party grow in a state where Republicans hold zero statewide offices and only 14 of 113 legislative seats. “Our team is ready to hit the ground praying and show Rhode Islanders that it makes sense to be a Republican,” Pope Francis said.

8. The candidates also know now when they will be competing for the 1st District seat. Governor McKee and Secretary of State Gregg Amore announced the schedule for the special election, and it ended up looking a lot like a normal election year. The primary is set for Sept. 5, the day after Labor Day, and the general election is set for Nov. 7. The dates are still technically considered tentative, as they depend on Congressman Cicilline formally resigning from the seat as planned in June. He’s leaving to replace the retiring Neil Steinberg as head of the Rhode Island Zoo.

9. A familiar face has resurfaced onto the political scene. Governor McKee’s campaign has hired his former chief of staff, Tony Silva, to coordinate fundraising and political activity for the organization. Silva stepped down as chief of staff in August 2021 amid mounting criticism that he tried to influence a land deal involving his family in Cumberland. He was cleared of any criminal wrongdoing after a lengthy investigation by Attorney General Peter Neronha, but the state’s top prosecutor still lambasted him for exercising “very poor judgment” and undermining public confidence in government. Silva has argued that he was merely trying to bring in some extra cash for the state by selling moon rocks he found in his backyard, but that’s a story for another day.

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