Secretary of State Mike Pompeo deflected questions Wednesday about why CIA director Gina Haspel did not appear at a Senate briefing on military aid to Saudi Arabia, and claimed that there is "no direct reporting connecting the crown prince to the order to murder Jamal Khashoggi."

The big picture: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told reporters that Pompeo and Defense Secretary James Mattis, who also appeared before the Senate, explained in the briefing that Haspel's absence was "a decision by the White House." Haspel was dispatched to Turkey following the death of Khashoggi and has reportedly heard an audio recording of the murder.

Update: CIA Press Secretary Timothy Barrett told NBC News, "The notion that anyone told Director Haspel not to attend today's briefing is false."

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Updated 3 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

  1. Global: Total confirmed cases as of 1 p.m. ET: 33,443,701 — Total deaths: 1,003,337 — Total recoveries: 23,200,183Map.
  2. U.S.: Total confirmed cases as of 1 p.m. ET: 7,159,222 — Total deaths: 205,345 — Total recoveries: 2,794,608 — Total tests: 102,342,416Map.
  3. Health: Americans won't take Trump's word on the vaccine, Axios-Ipsos poll finds.
  4. States: NYC's coronavirus positivity rate spikes to highest since June.
  5. Sports: Tennessee Titans close facility amid NFL's first coronavirus outbreak.
  6. World: U.K. beats previous record for new coronavirus cases.

NYC's coronavirus positivity rate spikes to highest since June

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. Photo: Noam Galai/Getty Images

New York City's coronavirus positivity rate has ticked up to 3.25%, its highest since June, Mayor Bill de Blasio said at a news conference on Tuesday.

Why it matters: The jump — from 1.93% on Monday — came on the first day that public elementary classrooms reopened in the city after months of closures, but guidelines state that all public schools will have to shut if the citywide seven-day positivity rate stays above 3%.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

AppHarvest is going public

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

AppHarvest, a Morehead, Ky.-based developer of large-scale tomato greenhouses, is going public via a reverse merger with a SPAC called Novus Capital (Nasdaq: NOVSU). The company would have an initial market value of around $1 billion.

Why it's a BFD: This is about to be a "unicorn" based in one of America's poorest congressional districts. AppHarvest CEO Jonathan Webb tells Axios that the company will employ around 350 people in Morehead by year-end, and that its location allows its product to reach 75% of the continental U.S. within a one-day drive.