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US President Donald Trump on Saturday shrugged off the bombshell news that his former national security adviser has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and will cooperate with a special prosecutor leading a probe into Russian election meddling. As the Russia probe overshadowed his big win with Senate passage of landmark tax cuts, Trump again insisted he and his campaign had not colluded with Russia. But Trump also suggested he has been holding back something important regarding what he knew at the time of ex- security adviser Michael Flynn's firing. Special prosecutor Robert Mueller's focus goes beyond possible collusion with Russia to shady business dealings and whether Trump himself tried to thwart the investigation. "What has been shown is no collusion. There's been absolutely no collusion. So we're very happy," Trump told reporters Saturday as he prepared to leave for a day trip to New York. Trump said he was not worried by what Flynn, who pleaded guilty on Friday to lying to the FBI about contacts he had with the former Russian ambassador, might tell Mueller. Trump also insisted that Flynn had done nothing wrong during the transition. And Trump said he had fired Flynn in February, just three weeks into the job, because he had lied to Vice President Mike Pence and the FBI about that those dealings. The revelation changes the timeline of the drama in a potentially dangerous way for Trump. At the time of Flynn's dismissal, the White House acknowledged only that Flynn had lied to Vice President Mike Pence -- not to the FBI, too -- about his discussions with the diplomat over sanctions imposed by then-president Barack Obama against Russia for meddling in the election. "I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI. He has pled guilty to those lies.
It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!" Trump wrote Saturday. Trump's ties with Flynn have been under intense scrutiny since FBI director James Comey was fired by the president in May. Comey testified under oath before a Senate panel in June that a day after Flynn's firing, Trump asked Comey to drop an investigation into the former national security director. If Trump's new statement is accurate, it would mean that when he pressed Comey to drop the probe into Flynn, Trump already knew that Flynn had lied to Comey's agency. A lingering part of the drama has been that after the White House learned through the Justice Department that Flynn lied to the White House about discussing sanctions with the ambassador, Trump still waited 18 days to fire him. Trump fired Comey in May and said he had the Russia probe in mind when he did it. The move backfired and led the Justice Department to appoint Mueller as the special prosecutor. The explosive new developments in the Russia probe have overshadowed the tax cuts approved Friday by the Senate in a push toward what would be Trump's first major legislative victory. In an early morning Twitter post, Trump called the bill the biggest tax cut in US history and said his Republican Party would now work with the House of Representatives, which has passed its own tax bill, to produce a common version. Passage would mark a first major victory for Trump's sputtering legislative agenda. "Thank you to House and Senate Republicans for your hard work and commitment!" Trump wrote. After a marathon session that stretched into the night, the chamber voted 51 to 49 in favor of the most significant US tax overhaul in 31 years. Both the Senate and House versions lower the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent, and include more modest tax cuts aimed at individuals across all income levels. Democrats argue that the plan is too expensive and will accommodate only the rich, and that it could ultimately impact cherished US entitlement programs like Medicare. The Senate vote amounts to a reversal of fortune for Trump and Republican leaders, whose bill just 24 hours earlier was on the brink of collapse when a handful of Republican deficit hawks balked at the controversial plan's $1.5 trillion price tag for 10 years. Trump hopes to sign a final bill before Christmas. That would be a sweet victory for the president, who has delivered on hardly any of his major campaign promises, including repealing the health care law known as Obamacare. Also this week, Trump engaged in an extraordinary, testy cross-Atlantic spat triggered by his retweeting of anti-Muslim videos posted by extremist far-right group in Britain. That prompted widespread outrage at home and abroad, and prompted British Prime Minister Theresa May to say that what Trump did was "wrong." Trump in turn answered by telling May to focus on her own country and the threat of Islamist terror instead of him.