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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

Last June, President Trump told me he was “100 percent” willing to answer questions — under oath — from Robert Mueller. Over the tumultuous months that followed, two things have remained consistent: 1) Virtually every lawyer friendly to the president has urged him to avoid an interview; and, 2) The president has said he is willing, even eager, to sit down with the special counsel.

Now it’s the Rudy Show. The President is gearing up, not to talk to Robert Mueller, but to fight him.

  • Rudy Giuliani tells ABC News the Trump legal team is now preparing to battle against a subpoena for Trump to testify. “I think it’s 50/50” that Mueller subpoenas the president’s testimony, Giuliani says. “I got to prepare for the 50 percent.”  
  • What he’s not saying: If the president is amped up to fight an effort by Mueller to force him to testify, he can’t exactly be driving his lawyers crazy anymore by talking about voluntarily testifying.

The big picture: The president and the special counsel are engaged in a game of chicken — both sides threatening steps neither wants, because they could trigger a crisis with dangerous and unpredictable consequences.

  • Trump, for all his Twitter threats about using “the powers granted to the presidency,” knows firing Mueller would have dire political consequences.
  • And Mueller, despite the threat to compel the president to testify, doesn't want to subpoena the president because the ensuing legal battle, which he could lose, would last a minimum of six months and possibly a year.
  • That would give the president’s allies time to wage a campaign to undermine public support for the investigation.

What to watch: The negotiations over a Trump/Mueller interview continue.

  • Despite Rudy’s 50/50 odds, the Trump legal team thinks Mueller won’t pull the trigger on a subpoena, and will ultimately be forced to accept written  answers from the president.

Jonathan Karl is the chief White House correspondent. for ABC News. This post is from "1 Big Guest" in today's Axios AM.

Go deeper

Scoop: U.S. begins denying Afghan immigrants

Afghan refugees on a bus bound for temporary housing after arriving in Greece. Photo: Byron Smith/Getty Images

The Biden administration has begun issuing denials to Afghans seeking to emigrate to the United States through the humanitarian parole process, after a system that typically processes 2,000 applications annually has been flooded with more than 30,000.

Why it matters: Afghans face steeper odds and longer processes for escaping to the U.S., despite the earlier sweeping efforts by the Biden administration to assist its allies. Immigration lawyers and advocacy groups say the government has set untenable barriers to a safe haven in the U.S.

3 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Dems invoke Robert Byrd to sell Manchin on Senate rules changes

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photos: Diana Walker, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

A small group of Senate Democrats is privately invoking the legacy of late West Virginia Sen. Robert Byrd in an effort to sway Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) to support their plans to change the chamber's rules, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Manchin — who holds Byrd's Senate seat — has often referenced his predecessor's strong moral conviction and insistence on preserving the Senate as an institution, as justification for some of his tough positions.

House votes to ban imports from Xinjiang over forced labor concerns

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The House voted 428-1 on Wednesday to pass a bill that would ban all imports from the Chinese region of Xinjiang unless the U.S. government determines that the products were not made with forced labor.

Why it matters: Both the Trump and Biden administrations, as well as several foreign parliaments, have recognized China's repression of Uyghurs and other Muslim minorities in Xinjiang as genocide.