Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham resigns

Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham is resigning from his position effective Wednesday, he said in a message to bureau staff on Monday.

Dillingham’s decision comes after he faced scrutiny from Democrats and other critics who claimed that he succumbed to efforts by the Trump administration to politicize the census. 

Dillingham, a Trump appointee, has been the subject of controversy due to President TrumpDonald TrumpTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot Intelligence community investigating links between lawmakers, Capitol rioters Michelle Obama slams 'partisan actions' to 'curtail access to ballot box' MORE’s push to exclude undocumented immigrants from the decennial congressional apportionment.


The Commerce Department’s Office of Inspector General last week released a memo stating that whistleblowers reported that Trump appointees were pressuring career officials to produce tallies of undocumented immigrants by Jan. 15, before Trump leaves office, regardless of quality.

House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn MaloneyCarolyn MaloneyDOJ declined to take up Chao ethics probe Government watchdog finds federal cybersecurity has 'regressed' in recent years Lawmakers line up behind potential cyber breach notification legislation MORE (D-N.Y.) called on Dillingham to resign in a statement released Friday, saying she no longer had faith “that he can lead the Bureau to produce a fair, accurate, and complete 2020 Census count as required by the Constitution.” Maloney urged President-elect Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump State Department appointee arrested in connection with Capitol riot FireEye finds evidence Chinese hackers exploited Microsoft email app flaw since January Biden officials to travel to border amid influx of young migrants MORE to remove and replace Dillingham if he did not resign.

Dillingham explained in a lengthy statement Monday that there had been no suggestion that the data requested violated any laws, rules or regulations.

“From what I understand, the reported whistleblower concerns appear to be misunderstandings regarding the planned process for the review and potential postings of data, and the agreed upon need to apply data quality standards,” he wrote. “A variety of factors may have contributed to misperceptions and heightened concerns associated with a limited request for a professional review of administrative data, for purposes of improving estimates - not for delivering 2020 Census apportionment data which the Bureau had determined was weeks away.”

Dillingham, who was appointed to the position about two years ago, will step down on the day that Trump leaves office and Biden is sworn in as the next president.  His departure comes almost a year before his term was supposed to end.


In the message to staff that was released on the Census Bureau’s website, Dillingham praised the work of bureau officials during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Many institutions demurred in the face of this pandemic, and it is easy to understand why. But you did not. You met this challenge head on and overcame it. You adapted operations to carry out the mission while following public health and safety protocols. You made great sacrifices to continue our work as you and your loved ones experienced the pandemic. You were resilient and persevered,” Dillingham wrote.”

Dillingham, who previously directed the Bureau of Justice Statistics and Bureau of Transportation Statistics, was confirmed to lead the Census Bureau in 2019 after the position was left without a permanent occupant for over a year. He took over at the bureau amid a legal battle over Trump’s effort to add a citizenship question to the 2020 Census, which the Supreme Court ultimately ruled against.

Trump issued a memo in July 2019 directing the Commerce secretary to provide Trump with the data needed to exclude undocumented immigrants from the apportionment, which determines how many seats each state gets in Congress over the next decade. Several states challenged the executive order in court. The Supreme Court eventually punted on the case, saying it was too early to rule on it. 

— Updated at 3:50 p.m.