Video: Matt Whitaker Defends Donald Trump Jr.'s Meeting With Russians at Trump Tower

The man taking over from Jeff Sessions as U.S. attorney general told CNN last year that he was in favor of the meeting at the center of an inquiry into possible Russian collusion with the Trump campaign ahead of the 2016 election.

Matthew Whitaker replaces Sessions, who was asked to resign as the country's top law official by U.S. President Donald Trump. Whitaker will take over as acting attorney general until a permanent replacement is named.

Trump had repeatedly criticized Sessions for recusing himself from overseeing any inquiry into charges that Russia had interfered in the 2016 presidential election, a recusal that led to the appointment of special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate alleged collusion.

Whitaker defended the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and Russian lobbyists with Kremlin ties, during a CNN panel discussion on July 13, 2017.

Whitaker, who at the time was the executive director of the Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, said Trump Jr. was right to agree to the meeting, and that there was no evidence he knew it would be with a Russian national. Trump Jr. said he did not know who he was meeting and that nothing came of it. 

Whitaker said: “If you have somebody that you trust that is saying you need to meet with this individual because they have information about your opponent, you would take that meeting.

"I have run for public office twice and you certainly want to have any legal advantage you can. One of those advantages is to know what your opponent [is doing]."

When asked if it would be wise to take a meeting with an unknown person so soon after being nominated as a presidential candidate, Whitaker told CNN: “I guarantee that after that meeting, once Donald Trump Jr. realized who that person was, that probably had a dramatic impact on how he felt about that meeting.

“We have no information right now that would suggest that he knew who this individual he was meeting with…they must just have been sold the fact that there was some really good information that they really needed to hear.”

Sessions stepped aside from the Russia inquiry in March 2017 after Democrats accused him of failing to disclose contacts with the Russian ambassador during his Senate confirmation hearing.

Whitaker, 48, was Sessions's chief of staff and has shown his support for Trump in other comments regarding the Russian inquiry.

In August 2017, Whitaker argued that Mueller had gone too far in investigating the family finances of Trump. “That goes beyond the scope of the appointment of the special counsel,” he wrote in a comment piece for CNN.

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