U.S. Census Bureau Director Steven Dillingham announced his retirement Monday, thanking members of the agency for their work during the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 virus that causes COVID-19.
His retirement comes amid unceasing criticism from Democrats who decried the decision by the Trump administration to produce the decennial population count without tallying illegal aliens, a decision the U.S. Supreme Court in December essentially endorsed when it threw out a challenge.
"Many institutions demurred in the face of this pandemic, and it is easy to understand why, but you did not," Dillingham wrote in a memo to staff posted on the Census' website. "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."
Several media outlets tied the resignation to the Commerce Department Inspector General's report that internal department critics complained about Dillingham and other political appointees. The complaints were they were pressuring agency staff to complete a technical document about the number of illegal aliens in the country before Joe Biden was inaugurated.
Leaders of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials, Asian Americans Advancing Justice, and The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights called for Dillingham's resignation after the release of the IG's report.
Democrat lawmakers followed suit days later.
"The Trump administration waged a damaging campaign against the census with the intent of manipulating the results to be politically advantageous for the president and the Republican Party," Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., wrote in a statement. "Census Director Steven Dillingham's failure to put country over loyalty to the president allowed these transgressions to occur and he therefore should resign."
"Officials like Steven Dillingham who cannot put the needs of the nation over the demands of a twice impeached president should resign," Rep. Judy Chu, D-Calif.
While denying any pressure, Dillingham did note, when he proposed the data analysis, he was told of resistance to carrying out the work.
"I asked the career deputy director and chief operating officer of the Census Bureau to coordinate the data review process," Dillingham said in a separate blog post on the bureau's website. "He informed me that several analysts chosen by him and his senior staff would work with the data but likely view the assignment unfavorably."
Newsmax writer Solange Reyner contributed to this report.
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