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White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said during a press briefing Monday that President Trump "was not making a judgment one way or the other" about NASCAR's decision to ban the Confederate flag and that his attack on Bubba Wallace was an attempt to stand up for NASCAR fans who are unfairly painted as racist.

The state of play: McEnany was repeatedly grilled by reporters over the president's inflammatory tweet, in which he demanded that NASCAR's only Black driver apologize after the FBI determined that he was not a target of a hate crime and claimed that ratings had dropped after the sport banned the Confederate flag at its events.

  • McEnany accused reporters of taking Trump's tweet "out of context" and said that the president was "pointing out the rush to judgment to immediately say that there was a hate crime, as happened in this case, as happened with Jussie Smollett, as happened with the Covington Catholic boys."
  • She said that Trump "believes it goes a long way if Bubba came out and acknowledged" that the noose incident was not a hate crime — despite the fact that Wallace already did so in a statement last month.

McEnany would not respond to repeated follow-up questions about why Wallace should apologize, considering that he was not the one who found the noose in the garage or the one who reported it, per an AL.com timeline of events.

  • While the FBI determined that the noose had been in place as a pull rope in a Talladega garage since October 2019 and thus was not intended for Wallace, NASCAR's president confirmed that it "was real" and that it moved quickly to launch an investigation in order to "protect" its driver.

The key exchange:

REPORTER: "What is the president's position? Does he think NASCAR made a mistake by banning the Confederate flag?"
MCENANY: "I spoke to him this morning about this and he said he was not making a judgment one way or the other. The intent of the tweet was to stand up for the men and women of NASCAR, the fans and those who have gone in this rush to judgment of the media to call something a hate crime when in fact the FBI report concluded this was not an intentional racist act. It very much mirrors other times where there's been a rush to judgment, let's say with the Covington boys or with Jussie Smollett."
REPORTER: "Let's drill down on the Confederate flag. Does he think it was a mistake for NASCAR to ban it?"
MCENANY: "The president said he wasn't making a judgment one way or the other. You're focusing on one word at the very bottom of the tweet that's completely taken out of context and neglecting the complete rush to judgment."

Go deeper: Lindsey Graham says Bubba Wallace has nothing to apologize for

Go deeper

White House coronavirus outbreak reaches the press corps

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

White House reporters are increasingly anxious and angry about the Trump administration's handling of COVID-19 cases within its own building.

State of play: Several White House reporters have tested positive and many are trying to figure out whether they and their families need to quarantine.

The front-runners for Biden's Supreme Court pick

Judge Kentaji Brown Jackson (left) and Justice Leondra Kruger (right) Tom Williams-Pool/Getty Images and Lonnie Tague, US Department of Justice

Two highly accomplished Black female judges — Ketanji Brown Jackson, a judge on the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals; and Leondra Kruger, a justice on the California Supreme Court — are seen as the early front-runners to replace retiring Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer.

The big picture: Jackson is a powerful federal judge with a record that progressives feel they can trust. Kruger was a highly regarded litigator and has carved out a reputation for working well with conservative judges.

Fed: Rate hikes are near

The Federal Reserve's headquarters building. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The Federal Reserve is on track to raise its main target interest rate in mid-March, as Chair Jerome Powell pledged to be "humble and nimble" in adapting policy to a fast-changing economy.

Why it matters: Fed leaders are looking to choke off inflation by raising interest rates in the near future, but keeping its options open for how fast and far the effort will go.