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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

President Trump will be “triggered” by the bleak leaks about the extent and intrusiveness of Robert Mueller’s investigation, and is likely to become more aggressive as he feels more threatened, sources close to the White House tell me.

What we're hearing: “His instinct is always to be on the offensive,” one source said. “This was a wake-up call to the president that will embolden him, in a lot of ways. As he sees this becoming more serious, his instinct is to punch back 10 times harder.”

Mueller threatens subpoena: After the N.Y. Times' list of Mueller's four dozen questions for Trump, the WashPost reported last night that at a tense meeting in early March, Mueller told Trump lawyers that if he declined an interview, Mueller “could issue a subpoena for the president to appear before a grand jury.”

  • Why it matters: "[T]he standoff could turn into a historic confrontation before the Supreme Court over a presidential subpoena."

The threat is vast: The questions (topics, really) stretch across Trump’s campaign, the Republican convention, the transition and the first year of the administration.

  • Many of the questions include specific dates, reflecting the rich narrative Mueller has already assembled.
  • A source very close to Trump said: “For the average human, nothing scares them more than legal issues. He. Does. Not. Care. His whole adult life has been spent in litigation. He's not afraid of high-stakes legal stuff. … He’s just going to start swinging and knock people’s heads off.”
  • This is likely to include further steps to try to discredit the investigation with his base, a strategy he has been blatantly pursuing for months.

Bob Bauer — a former White House counsel under President Clinton and now a New York University law professor — told me the Times list makes it plain that the risks are too high for Trump to submit to an interview.

  • "He is entirely unpredictable," Bauer said. "But I do not see him sustaining the hours of questioning he would face. And to some questions — such as his role in the Trump Tower matter and the fake press release he directed for Don Jr. — he seems unlikely to have good answers."
  • Furthermore, and one of the reasons the list is so threatening: Some of the questions have no safe answer.

A former U.S. attorney tells me how federal prosecutors approach such an interview: "For each of the questions, there is already an elaborate follow-up question tree, supported by marked exhibits ready to be presented to refresh Trump’s recollection, impeach him, or otherwise test his credibility."

  • The former fed continued: "The question tree has a flow: 'If yes, then [follow up] down this branch. If no, then f/u down this branch. If maybe or non-responsive, then f/u down this branch.' This is what we do. And no one is better at it than Mueller."

Paul Rosenzweig, a former Whitewater prosecutor, told the N.Y. Times that with that many topics, "that’s honestly a two-day interview. That’s 12 hours of questioning.”

  • Another complication: The Daily Beast's Betsy Woodruff pointed out on MSNBC that Mueller is likely to take the leak of the questions by the Trump team as a "betrayal of trust."

The bottom line: Based on my conversations with insiders, a Mueller interview of Trump is unlikely but not impossible.

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Go deeper

Republican Sen. Sasse slams Nebraska GOP for "weird worship" of Trump after state party rebuke

Sen. Ben Sasse, (R-Neb.) Photo: Andrew Harnik - Pool/Getty Images

The Nebraska Republican Party on Saturday formally "rebuked" Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) for his vote to impeach former President Trump earlier this year, though it stopped short of a formal censure, CNN reports.

Why it matters: Sasse is the latest among a slate of Republicans who have faced some sort of punishment from their state party apparatus after voting to impeach the former president. The senator responded statement Saturday, per the Omaha World-Herald, saying "most Nebraskans don't think politics should be about the weird worship of one dude."

Cuomo barraged by fellow Dems after second harassment accusation

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo faced a barrage of criticism from fellow Democrats after The New York Times reported that the second former aide in four days had accused him of sexual harassment.

Why it matters: Cuomo had faced a revolt from legislators for his handling of nursing-home deaths from COVID. Now, the scandal is acutely personal, with obviously grave political risk.

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Fauci: Children "very likely" to get COVID vaccine at start of 2022

NIAID Director Anthony Fauci. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images)

Children under age 12 will "very likely" be able to get vaccinated for coronavirus at the "earliest the end of the year, and very likely the first quarter of 2022," NIAID Director Anthony Fauci told "Meet the Press" Sunday.

Why it matters: Children generally aren't at risk of serious coronavirus infections, but vaccinating them will be key to protecting the adults around them and, eventually, reaching herd immunity, writes Axios' Caitlin Owens.