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January 17, 2019

As the longest government shutdown in history nears its one-month anniversary, a new poll shows President Trump taking a significant hit among his base.

A survey from NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist published Thursday found that Trump's approval rating is down among suburban men, white evangelicals, Republicans, and white men without a college degree. The most drastic change was among suburban men, 42 percent of whom approve of Trump while 48 percent disapprove, compared to 51 percent approval and 39 percent disapproval last month.

Additionally, among white evangelicals, Trump is down to 66-to-23 approval from 73-to-17 approval last month. Among Republicans, he's down to 83-to-10 percent approval from 90-to-7 percent last month. Finally, among white men without a college degree, he's down to 50-to-35 percent approval from 56-to-34 last month.

These are all demographics that brought Trump to victory in 2016. A CNN exit poll at the time, for example, suggested 71 percent of white men without a college degree voted for Trump. "For the first time, we saw a fairly consistent pattern of having his base showing evidence of a cracking," Lee Miringoff, the director of Marist Institute for Public Opinion, told NPR about this new poll.

A previous poll by Morning Consult found that Trump's net approval rating is below zero in key states that he carried in 2016, including Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.

NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist's poll was conducted by speaking to 1,023 adults from Jan. 10-13. The margin of error is 3.8 percentage points. See more results at NPR. Brendan Morrow

2:50 a.m.

President Trump surprised, amused, and left lots of people aghast when he abruptly announced Tuesday evening that, because Denmark isn't willing to discuss selling Greenland, he is no longer visiting the country, its leaders, and its queen in the beginning of September. Maggie Haberman at The New York Times, for one, isn't buying Trump's stated reason for scrapping the visit — which, to be fair, is pretty unbelievable.

Haberman doesn't offer her own explanation. But in the wake of Trump's announcement, Twitter discovered a local Danish news report from last week: Coincidentally, former President Barack Obama is visiting Denmark again at the end of September. And some unkind wags drew their own conclusions.

It's clearly a coincidence that Trump called off his visit to Denmark a week after Obama's trip was announced — geopolitics isn't quite that petty. And yet...

Obama will speak and take questions from business leaders and students at Aalborg University in northern Denmark, The Local reports. Rich Henningsen, the moderator of the event, told local media that "President Obama is one of the people I look up to most in the in the world," while Aalborg's mayor, Thomas Kastrup-Larsen, gushed awkwardly: "I do not doubt for a moment that this will be a new climax for Aalborg and the whole of northern Jutland."

Meanwhile, a month before Trump's visit, thousands of people had "already signed up for a demonstration against him," the Copenhagen Post reported last week. "So it looks like the Danes prefer Obama over Trump after all. ..." Apropos of nothing. Peter Weber

2:10 a.m.

Once they saw Monte, they knew they had met their leading man.

Animal trainers scouting for dogs to appear in Disney's live-action Lady and the Tramp came to the HALO Animal Rescue in Phoenix, hoping to find a few animals that would be a good fit. Monte, a two-year-old terrier mix, immediately stood out, as he's not only handsome, but he also knows how to sit, is good on a leash, and loves attention.

The stars of Lady and the Tramp are all former rescue dogs, and Monte will be voiced by actor Justin Theroux. All of the dogs have found loving families, Disney said. The movie will premiere on Nov. 12 on Disney's new streaming service. Catherine Garcia

1:41 a.m.

President Trump spoke by phone with National Rifle Association CEO Wayne LaPierre for at least 30 minutes on Tuesday, and according to at least three accounts of their conversation, Trump assured LaPierre that expanding background checks — supported by 90 percent of Americans in multiple polls conducted after the back-to-back mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio — is off the table.

In the call, Trump assured LaPierre that "he was not interested in legislation establishing universal background checks and that his focus would be on the mental health of the gunmen, not their guns," The New York Times reports. Trump said as much after the phone call, telling reporters "we have very, very strong background checks right now," and "mental problems" are the "sort of missing areas and areas that don't complete the whole circle." He added: "A lot of the people that put me where I am are strong believers in the Second Amendment, and I am also."

This wasn't Trump's first aborted post-shooting lurch toward gun control, nor his first conversation with LaPierre after the El Paso and Dayton mass murders. Three days after the shootings, daughter and senior adviser Ivanka Trump "had proposed the idea of a televised Rose Garden appearance as a way to nudge her father toward supporting universal background checks," promising a made-for-TV occasion "where Trump could sign a document and call it 'historic' and 'unprecedented' — and receive positive media attention," The Atlantic reports.

Trump "loved it. He was all spun up about it," a former senior White House official told The Atlantic, but when he enthusiastically pitched the idea to LaPierre on an Aug. 7 call, LaPierre shot it down, and, as an NRA official put it, "the Rose Garden fantasy" was dead. The NRA, despite scandal and shrinking support, has kept up the lobbying onslaught unabated, to a receptive White House. Ivanka Trump assured GOP donors in Wyoming on Monday night that the White House is still focused on background checks, The Atlantic notes, but "less than 24 hours later, her father reportedly assured LaPierre of the opposite." Peter Weber

1:27 a.m.

Had Sylvie Beckers not overwatered her family's backyard flower bed, she never would have helped her mother discover a new insect species.

In the summer of 2016, Beckers, then 2, got a little too enthusiastic with the hose, and flooded the flower bed. Her mom, biology professor Laura Sullivan-Beckers, soon could see "these bright green bugs float up to the top of the soil," she told Good Morning America. While working on her doctorate, Sullivan-Beckers studied treehoppers, and she knew these bugs were out of the ordinary. With her daughter by her side, she spent the rest of the summer taking photos and collecting species, eventually sending the specimens to the Department of Agriculture.

After three years of waiting, Sullivan-Beckers finally got the call: this was a new species, and an especially rare find as its "closest relatives are all in South America," research entomologist Stuart H. McKamey said. "We don't know how it got to Murray, Kentucky, and we don't even know where else it is found in the U.S.A. or elsewhere, but I doubt it evolved there because there's nothing similar within 1,000 miles." Without Beckers, the bugs likely would have stayed deep underground, and her mother decided to name the species Hebetica sylviae in her honor. Catherine Garcia

12:33 a.m.

The Epoch Times, a news outlet closely aligned with a spiritual community banned in China, has spent $1.5 million over the last six months to run 11,000 pro-President Trump ads on Facebook, NBC News reports.

Only the Trump campaign has spent more money on ads in support of the president, data shows. Former staffers of the New York City-based Epoch Times told NBC News the ad blitz isn't surprising, due to the leanings of the Falun Gong movement. Ben Hurley, who helped launch The Epoch Times in Australia, said the outlet is "rabidly pro-Trump" because the most devout Falun Gong followers "believe that Trump was sent by heaven to destroy the Communist Party."

The Facebook ads feature people praising Trump and talking about fake news and Deep State and QAnon conspiracies, NBC News reports. Trump's Facebook page has posted Epoch Times content, and his daughter-in-law was recently interviewed by the outlet. Data shows that between Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter, Epoch Media Group videos had about three billion views in April alone, making the company 11th among all video creators, NBC News reports.

The Epoch Times was founded in 2000 by a Falun Gong practitioner named John Tang, but not much is known about its ownership, with executives refusing to give NBC News any names. The founder of Falun Gong, Li Hongzhi, called Epoch Media Group "our media," and in 2009 he pushed for The Epoch Times to become mainstream. Li argues that feminism and homosexuality are wicked and that aliens can take over human minds and bodies, and former employees said they were told they couldn't write about gay people or popular music but needed to push conservative opinions and criticism of China. The Epoch Times' publisher, Stephen Gregory, said the company has "no political agenda." Read more about the secretive news outlet and what it was like to work there at NBC News. Catherine Garcia

August 20, 2019

America's ambassador to Denmark, Carla Sands, rolled out the digital red carpet for President Trump on Tuesday afternoon, tweeting that America's "partner, ally, friend" is "ready" for Trump's visit.

A little more than two hours later, Trump pulled the plug, strongly suggesting that the entire purpose of his trip to Copenhagen was to discuss purchasing Greenland from Denmark. That might have been news to Sands, a former soap opera and film actress and chiropractor, as the official reason for Trump's visit was dinner with Queen Margrethe II and meetings with Danish leaders — "as an offbeat thank-you to a small country that has been a stalwart NATO member and that supported U.S. military actions," as The Washington Post put it — following a two-day visit to Poland.

Trump confirmed on Sunday that he had asked his administration to explore buying Greenland, saying that "essentially, it’s a large real estate deal," but he also said it wasn't "No. 1 on the burner" and claimed his trip to Denmark was "not for this reason at all." Trump had been talking about buying Greenland for weeks, the Post reports, and senior administration officials had discussed various offers to pry it loose from Denmark. Once the news leaked, Denmark and Greenland made it clear the ice-covered island territory is not for sale.

Trump is still expected to visit Warsaw to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the start of World War II. Peter Weber

August 20, 2019

President Trump won't be breaking rugbrød with Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen any time soon.

Trump tweeted on Tuesday night that he will no longer visit Denmark later this month, and he's putting his change in plans squarely on the shoulders of Frederiksen. "Denmark is a very special country with incredible people, but based on Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen's comments, that she would have no interest in discussing the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting scheduled in two weeks for another time," he said. Both countries will save money, Trump added, thanks to Frederiksen being "so direct."

Greenland is an autonomous territory of Denmark, and on Sunday, Trump confirmed reports that he was "interested" in buying it. In response, Frederiksen said Greenland is "not for sale," and she hoped Trump's comments were "not meant seriously." Trump's trip, it should be noted, officially had nothing to do with his misplaced desire to purchase the island — he was invited to visit Denmark by Queen Margrethe II. Catherine Garcia

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