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Hope Hicks returned to the White House to pull Trump across the finish line. Then coronavirus hit.

Two days later, the World Health Organization declared the coronavirus a national pandemic.

Since then, the virus has claimed more than 212,000 American lives, tanked the economy and forced millions out of their jobs or school, imperiling the president’s reelection prospects. But it may never have been more palpable for Trump than the moment last week when Hicks took ill — closely foreshadowing his own sickness.

Hicks is rarely seen — her disdain for the spotlight is matched by her loyalty to the man who loves nothing more. But for the president she is ever-present. Whatever her title, her unspoken job description has been to prevent reality from intruding on him. She has managed his moods and counseled him on nearly everything, from the most substantive to the trivial. Until last week, she spent more time with him than almost anyone else outside his family.

“She is trusted because she isn’t driving her own policy agenda. She is looking out for him,” said former White House press secretary Sarah Sanders, who has worked closely with Hicks. “It’s so important for him to have a voice in the room that’s not trying to do anything other than be strictly helpful to him. She is a confidante, an adviser and a strategist.”

But when a reporter broke the news of Hicks’s coronavirus diagnosis last week, it exposed a contagion at the White House that has presented Trump with his biggest challenge at the defining moment of his presidency. It has placed exactly the kind of scrutiny on Hicks that she abhors and put her movements at the center of a conversation about the president’s handling of the nation’s most deadly pandemic in a century.

This story is based on interviews with 12 current and former administration officials or others close to Hicks,

Montana presses to finish census, eyeing 2nd House seat

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A complete count of Montana’s households could come with a big reward — a second seat in Congress and millions of federal dollars annually. But the 2020 census deadline remains in flux, making it uncertain if census takers will finish counting the vast, rural state.

Projections show that Montana would gain another seat in the U.S. House of Representatives after the census, but a study published earlier this month found that a shortened deadline for collecting data could cost the state the rewards. The findings gained urgency Monday when the Census Bureau pulled forward the deadline to Oct. 5.

The study, published by the American Statistical Association, found that under the Sept. 30 deadline, both Montana and Florida could lose seats in the U.S. House that they would have taken from California and Ohio were the deadline extended through October.

With over 1 million people, Montana’s congressional district is the nation’s most populous. Experts say a second House seat is a prize the state can scarcely afford to lose.


The situation is even more urgent for the state’s eight Native American tribes, which rely on an accurate census count for federal aid worth millions of dollars. Without an extended deadline, their tribal lands are poised for a historic undercount.

A judge gave Montana some hope when she issued a preliminary injunction on Sept. 25 to prevent the Trump administration from winding down census operations on Sept. 30. The last-minute ruling came after it emerged that top census officials believed a shortened deadline could hinder a full count.

But the ruling’s meaning remains unclear. On Monday, the U.S. Secretary of Commerce announced in a tweet that census takers would stop knocking on doors and questionnaires would be due Oct. 5, despite the ruling.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration