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Iowa Caucus Results Delayed Over "Inconsistencies"; Trump Prepares for State of the Union Address. Aired 4-4:30a ET

Aired February 4, 2020 - 04:00   ET



LAURA JARRETT, CNN ANCHOR: A historic night for all the wrong reasons. No winner to report from the Iowa caucuses. Why? And what it means for the race to unseat President Trump.

Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world. This is EARLY START. I'm Laura Jarrett.

CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: And I'm Christine Romans. It is Tuesday, February 4th. It's 4:00 a.m. in New York, and New Hampshire. It's 3:00 a.m. in Iowa.

In the room where it happened, nobody knows what happened. The 2020 race kicks off with a debacle for Democrats. There are still no results to report in Iowa's first-in-the-nation caucus. The state party, the Democratic Party said a problem was caused by inconsistencies among datasets.

For hours, the party claimed quality control was slowing the release.

JARRETT: The deeply leading candidates deeply frustrated and their supporters waiting late into the night with nothing to celebrate. In a call at 2:00 a.m. Eastern with party officials, campaigns raised concerns about the integrity of the results. The Iowa Democratic Party chair said he expects to have results later today.


TROY PRICE, CHAIR OF THE IOWA DEMOCRATIC PARTY: We want to emphasize that this is a reporting issue, not a hack or an intrusion. And it's exactly why we have a paper trail and systems in place to uphold the integrity of our process.


ROMANS: Some changes to that process. For the first time, precincts were required to report three separate numbers. Voters' first preference, second preference, and the delegate count from each precinct. Results were supposed to be reported through a mobile app.

But some precincts abandoned it after problems, opting instead to call into a hotline with their results as usual, except they were left on hold for hours on end using those hotlines. CNN spoke with one county precinct official who was stymied live on

our air trying to report results.


SEAN SEBASTIAN, STORY COUNTY PRECINCT 1-1 SECRETARY: Wolf, I have been on hold for over an hour with the Iowa Democratic Party. They tried to, I think, promote an app to report the results. The app, by all accounts, just like doesn't work. So we've been recommended to call into the hotline. And the hotline has not been responsive.

This is a real coincidence. Wolf. I just got off hold just now so I've got to get off the phone to report the results.

BLITZER: All right. Go ahead. Can we listen in as you report 'em, Sean?


BLITZER: All right. Let's listen.

SEBASTIAN: OK. Hi. Hello? They hung up on me. They hung up on me. OK. I've got to get back in line on hold.


JARRETT: It's just amazing. The Trump campaign exploiting the Democrats' woes with this gleeful tweet there. Quality control so to speak.

Our coverage begins with morning with CNN's Ryan Nobles live from Des Moines.

Ryan, walk us through exactly what happened here.

RYAN NOBLES, CNN WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: You know, Laura, I wish I could. I think to a certain extent, a lot of people are still left scratching their heads here. Very confused by what's been a very unreliable last few hours in Iowa.

Essentially, we started to realize that there was a problem late in the night, probably around 10:00 Central Time, 11:00 Eastern. That's when the results just weren't trickling in. Usually, by this time in the Iowa caucus process, you're at least starting to get some sense of where the candidates stand. At least a percentage of those precincts get a bit of the returns into the central headquarters and you get an idea of where the campaigns stand.

But even at that late hour, not even one single percent of the vote total come through. And it was at that point that the campaign started to get a little nervous, and what was even more peculiar is even at that early stage, there seemed to be no level of communication between the campaigns and the Iowa Democratic Party. That changed as the night progressed.

And eventually, the IDP reached out to the campaigns. They held a very brief conference call where they insisted over and over again that this wasn't a problem with the software.


It was a human-error problem and they were just in the process of tabulating the results because they wanted them to be correct. And they did not want the integrity of the process to be corrupted in any way. That still did not provide much clarity.

And then what you saw happen last night was several of these campaigns sent their candidates out to the stage to speak to their supporters. And in some cases, in the case of both Pete Buttigieg and Bernie Sanders, at least subtly claim victory.

The problem, though, right now, Laura and Christine, is that we don't know for sure who, if anyone, has won the Iowa caucuses. We do expect at some point today that the Iowa Democratic Party is going to release those numbers. But then the questions are going to be raised about the process itself and whether or not the integrity did remain intact.

I can tell you from the Sanders campaign, in particular, they were very upset on a conference call last night with members of the Iowa Democratic Party about the way this entire process has played out.

The long end short of it, guys, at this point, we tonight know much more about who the winner of the Iowa caucus is at this stage than we did when those caucuses started last evening here in Iowa. A lot of uncertainty and a lot of campaigns still scratching their head trying to figure out what comes next.

ROMANS: You can imagine their frustration, Ryan. You know, they have spent a year and millions of dollars campaigning all throughout Iowa. Now, they're forced with the fact maybe moving on and not being able to have that moment where they declare what happened.

We'll come back to you in about an hour, Ryan. Thanks.

JARRETT: See you, Ryan. Thanks so much.

Meantime, Democratic Party officials in Iowa taking extreme measures now to get the caucus votes counted by today. Let's go to CNN's Dan Merica in Des Moines with more on that.

Dan, you had some great reporting I know about a call where obviously those Democratic officials in Iowa facing some pretty harsh criticism.


DAN MERICA, CNN POLITICAL REPORTER: Yes. It's been chaos here in Des Moines, quite bluntly. And that chaos has really emanated from the Iowa Democratic Party. Their boiler room where they were trying to work through all of this.

And what you had happen is throughout the night is as the time went on that there weren't any results, campaigns grew more and more anxious. The Iowa Democratic Party led by Troy Price held a call with the campaigns before midnight. That call happened. And then a second call happened after midnight.

CNN was actually able to listen into that call and Troy Price took a brunt of criticism from these campaigns. With people raising concerns about the integrity of the results, when the results would be reported. Troy Price was not able to answer many of their questions and kept falling back on this -- his desire to maintain the integrity of the results, pledging to keep the campaigns in the loop. But none of that quelled their concerns.

And many of those concerns stemmed from Bernie Sanders. His senior advisor was particularly harsh on the call, calling out Troy Price, calling out the Iowa caucuses. And at some times, calling the explanation for the delay bogus.

What happened throughout Iowa last night was that there were a mad scramble to figure out how to report the numbers from the precincts of which there are about 1,700 across the state, to the Iowa Democratic Party here in Des Moines. There were a number of steps that were going to be taken. They had an app that the precincts could use and there were reports, as you got to, that the app did not work.

And then the second set of possibility -- way to report the numbers back to the Iowa Democratic Party was by phone. And as you reported, and we saw live on our air, that sometimes delayed the process by about an hour. So, what you had is you had Iowa Democratic Party officials figuring out how to work this all together. And then here in Polk County, the largest county in Iowa, the Democratic Party chair said he dispatched people from his party to knock on doors of precinct chairs to figure out where their numbers were, and in some cases, waking them up to get those numbers back to their headquarters.

That's how chaotic things have been in Des Moines.


JARRETT: Seems like the backup system really just failed here. The fact that folks were on the phone over an hour because the app wasn't working is just a real breakdown.

Dan, thanks so much. See you soon.

MERICA: Yes. That's -- you are right. Thank you.

JARRETT: Thanks.

ROMANS: With no winner or loser in Iowa, the 2020 Democrats got to move on to New Hampshire, right? They are trying to regain momentum after a bizarre and indecisive night.

CNN's John Berman live at the airport in Manchester, New Hampshire, where candidates, John, are arriving later than expected. And without, some cases, the story line clear.

JOHN BERMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: You know, it is always a bizarre night at the general aviation terminal in Manchester Airport, Romans. But this is particularly bizarre, as you said, they have arrived here with no idea who won.

We saw Andrew Yang seconds ago. Andrew Yang was -- he was pumped up. Ready to campaign in New Hampshire. But he said it's frustrating the months of work. It's hard to work for months in Iowa, get into that night, and not know how you did.

Just before that, we saw Senator Amy Klobuchar and she is in an interesting place because her campaign feels, based on conversations where there are people on the ground in Iowa, that they may have exceeded expectations.


Now we don't know if that's true because we don't seen the final results yet but they feel good. So she hit the ground I think in New Hampshire with more enthusiasm and more momentum than they might have expected a few days ago. And the uncertainty in the lack of results might, frankly, help her. She can come here this morning and campaign and she can say she did well and no one's going to know for sure.

The uncertainty here is unbelievable, Christine Romans. And I know from your years in Iowa, you know this. Iowa prides itself on doing this and doing it right. And the fact that they got through this night and were sitting here in the wee hours in New Hampshire and don't know who won, don't know how many people voted, it's simply staggering.

ROMANS: It's a new criticism for Iowa. You know, look, you always hear, every four years, you hear Iowa isn't representative of the population as whole. It's white. It's more elderly. It's 1 percent of the population and so importance, outsize importance for the Democrats in particular in terms of who gets the nominee.

This is, John, a whole different kind of criticism about Iowa now.

BERMAN: Absolutely, absolutely. Iowa was already on the rocks in terms of being the first in the nation caucuses just because of what you said.

And to go through this night and to have the process be flawed, it's going to make it much harder to make the case that they should go first.

Now, to their credit, getting it right is the most important thing. And if they didn't have it right last night or they don't have it right now, it's better that they wait to get those results out. But getting them out in a timely and reliable fashion is important.

And you can already sense the bad blood that's simmering among some of the campaigns. The finger pointing or at least among some of their supporters.


BERMAN: You heard it on some of the conference calls last night between the campaigns and whatnot. And you just wonder when the results do come out, how the campaigns will respond. Will they choose to attack the process if they don't like the number of votes that they see? It'll be interesting to watch that happen.

ROMANS: All right. John Berman. We know you got people to talk to.

JARRETT: Thanks so much. See you soon, John.

BERMAN: See you in a bit.

JARRETT: So Democrats have vowed to make Donald Trump a one-term president. Well, it's hard to do that if you can't count the votes. How the Democrats' embarrassing night in Iowa helps the president.



ROMANS: All right. Are you waking up looking for results from Iowa? We are still waiting for the results of the first in the nation Iowa caucuses, everything in limbo at this hour.

The Iowa Democratic Party says inconsistencies were found in the reporting of the results last night. All the candidates have been told not to expect final tallies until sometime today. The Iowa Democratic Party saying it is incredibly important to keep quality control here and to preserve the integrity of the vote.

JARRETT: Let's go live to Des Moines, Iowa, and bring in CNN political analyst and "Washington Post" White House reporter, Toluse Olorunnipa.

Good morning. Not the morning we thought we would have with you.


JARRETT: Obviously, you know, it's interesting to see how the candidates are reacting to this news, Toluse. You know, you see certain candidates like Amy Klobuchar claiming victory. Pete Buttigieg being, obviously, very positive. Joe Biden not talking to reporters getting off the plane there in New Hampshire.

Who -- who's coming out better shape out of last night with no votes?

TOLUSE OLORUNNIPA, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, we've actually heard from almost every candidate. And they've all tried to put a positive spin on the no-result night that we saw. But there are several candidates.

We saw Amy Klobuchar go right out to the mics, speak to the cameras very early on, claim that she had a good night even before we saw any results. And that was a positive for her that she was able to get on a plane and head to New Hampshire and she's -- has some momentum going into New Hampshire.

Joe Biden may be somewhat benefitting from this because from all indications, he had a less stellar night than what he was hoping for. But the fact that there are not actual numbers behind that means that he may be able to escape from Iowa and move on to the next state and try to get toward South Carolina with a little bit of momentum without having the headlines be that he was at the back of the pack or that he was fourth. So he may actually benefit from this in some way, as well.

And all the other candidates, the fact that no one has dropped out. We normally see candidates drop out after Iowa. The fact that hasn't happened yet gives us a sense that everyone is claiming some kind of victory.

ROMANS: You saw Andrew Yang at the airport. John Berman saw him there.

You know, instead of having a story line coming out of Iowa the night, as they get on the planes and go to the New Hampshire for the first of the nation primary, you have basically a spaghetti bowl of story lines and everyone can pick which one they want. Michael Bloomberg, for example, his supporters could say fantastic he wasn't there. Look, he's above all of this drama. The Bernie Sanders supporters can say, you know, look, the party has always been a real problem for Bernie. You know, there's -- they're against Bernie.

Everybody can sort of take their story line and run with it until we have some results. When we get results, are they -- I mean, I guess less consequential than they would have been otherwise?

OLORUNNIPA: They are. Every hour between now and New Hampshire is primetime for these candidates trying to get some momentum, trying to build on their campaign. And, normally, in the past we've seen the night after the Iowa caucuses be a big night for whatever result happens.

We saw President Obama, after he won in Iowa, he gave that big, major speech. And it really kicked off his campaign and launched him into New Hampshire, launched him into South Carolina. That's not going to be available to any of these candidates.

And as we get closer to New Hampshire, we only have about a week between Iowa and New Hampshire and every hour that passes by without results, means a narrative they're putting together to show their campaign has momentum, it's harder for them to put together that momentum without the numbers to back it up. Before you know it, we are going to have new numbers in New Hampshire and those numbers are going to be less impacted by what happened in Iowa, in part, because it's taking longer for those Iowa numbers to come out.

So each of these candidates are going to have to fight in New Hampshire on their own without any data or numbers or results in Iowa to put to the voters to say that they have the electability argument that they have been trying to make for the past year.


JARRETT: Toluse, it's interesting. You know, the entrance polls for folks heading into the polls last night show that beating Trump was the number one thing on their minds. Clearly, even more so than policies those polls show. But this is a real heck of a way for Democrats to show they are in a best position to beat the president heading into November.

OLORUNNIPA: Yes. One of the winners last night may be President Trump. And we've seen his campaign really try to drive the divisions between the Democrats that are running against him. Try to show that the dissension and the lack of unity, the lack of positive result out of last night is a sign that Democrats are in disarray and they're not in a good place they can compete against him.

I was at a press conference from the Trump campaign yesterday and they talked about having this great election machine. They had 80 surrogates in the state. And they are trying to compare and contrast themselves to the Democrats saying that they're much more organized. They're ready with millions of dollars to take on whoever comes out of this field. And they're taking advantage of the fact that, right now, it doesn't seem like anyone has a strong result after last night because there is no result to point to at this point.

ROMANS: There is this to point to, though. The headlines on some of the paper: Duh Moines.

You're going to hear more criticism about the importance of Iowa as the first in the nation caucus I think. You know, a lot of people this week -- I'm from Iowa -- a lot of people this week were talking about why a state with such a small population, not directly representative of the rest of the United States, gets so much attention from these candidates.

I think this Iowa Democratic Party problem last night is going to just keep that debate alive, isn't it?

OLORUNNIPA: That's exactly right. We're probably going to hear a growing chorus of Democrats saying, listen, Iowa is no longer a swing state. It's not representative of our party. Demographically, it doesn't represent the diversity of the Democratic Party.

And now, we have this debacle with the voting, the caucus system, which is discriminatory in some ways and makes it harder for certain voters to get out and participate. We are going to hear it -- a lot of Democratic voters say, maybe we should choose another state, a state that has a more representative population that's more welcoming to Democrats, more likely to be a swing state in the general election. And maybe leave Iowa behind.

We've started to hear before this, this trouble we saw with the voting and now that chorus is going to grow even louder.

ROMANS: Although, I've been hearing this as long as I've been covering the Iowa caucuses and they all show up and spend millions of dollars. So for some reason, they don't -- they can't quit Iowa.

JARRETT: Toluse, go get some coffee. We will see you back soon. OK? Thanks so much.


JARRET: OK. A lot more on the situation in Iowa. Plus, the State of the Union is tonight. Oh, by the way, how the

looming impeachment vote could be a factor.

Stay with us.



JARRETT: On the eve of an all but certain acquittal in the impeachment trial, President Trump plans to use tonight's State of the Union Address to position himself for re-election. In his closing arguments, House impeachment manager Adam Schiff said the president cannot be trusted to turn down foreign interference in November.

But that did not sway even moderate Republicans like Lisa Murkowski. The Alaska senator called the president's conduct shameful and wrong, but she blames the process and fellow lawmakers for her decision to acquit.


SEN. LISA MURKOWSKI (R-AK): The House rushed through what should have been one of the most serious, consequential undertakings of the legislative branch, simply to meet an artificial, self-imposed deadline. The House failed in its responsibilities. And the Senate -- the Senate should be ashamed by the rank partisanship that has been on display here.


ROMANS: Democratic Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia wants President Trump censured, a sign some moderate Democrats may be leaning toward acquittal.

Republican senators are urging the president to avoid impeachment talk during the State of the Union. It is not clear whether he plans to listen. A senior administration official says the speech will be forward looking and optimistic.

JARRETT: We have heard that many times before.

ROMANS: You know, I feel like lately, he has been trying to stay on this economy message. I mean, he has a whole litany of, you know, his best of, with some exaggeration, how well the economy is doing. I suspect he may try to hit that point home tonight.

JARRETT: We'll see.

A truly unbelievable night at the Iowa caucuses. If you are just getting up, there are no results to report. After inconsistencies were reported by the state party, when will we get the numbers? And what it means for the race to unset President Trump.