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Chaos in Iowa; Anticipation of Voting Results. Aired 4:30-5p ET

Aired February 4, 2020 - 16:30   ET



ANDERSON COOPER, CNN HOST: And we're about 15 minutes away from a press conference.

It's going to be held there, at the media center in Des Moines, Iowa. Troy Price, the chairman of the Democratic Party, is going to be taking -- making a statement and taking questions, apparently, from reporters.

It's expected to be around 4:45. We also expect to at least start seeing some results. Not clear exactly how many results or exactly from what areas. There's been some concern.

Pete Buttigieg's campaign has put out a statement voicing concern that some of the early results may be from major metropolitan or urban areas closer to the Democratic Party headquarters. And they have some concerns about that.

Nobody knows for sure. We will see what happens in about 15 minutes. We will obviously bring that to you live.

Back now with the panel.


VAN JONES, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: The reason he's worried is because he jumped out there and said, I won, I won, I won.


JONES: And so the risk is, then the first wave comes out, and he doesn't win the first wave, maybe he wins later on. And then he's going to get pounded by everybody for his hubris.

So that's why he's doing a little bit of a preemptive strike here, saying, hey, listen, if the first numbers don't say me victorious...

DAVID AXELROD, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: No, but there is -- I mean, that is that is why you judge -- I mean, this network and others judge by the final count, because that's the way this system works.

I mean, he -- if he's viable around the state, and other people aren't, he could gain. (CROSSTALK)

JONES: He will gain as he goes.

I think this kind of a preliminary pushback in case the first numbers come out bad.


AXELROD: It may be as well.

But with Buttigieg, he put all his bet on Iowa. If he doesn't win Iowa, his chances of winning the nomination are probably pretty...


NIA-MALIKA HENDERSON, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL REPORTER: It feels like, as long he comes in second, maybe, I mean, I feel like it sounds like -- listen, we don't know what the results are going to be.

But it sounds like there might be some essential ties out of here. And, listen, everybody is taking these results, which nobody knows about, as a ticket out of Iowa.


DAVID GREGORY, CNN POLITICAL ANALYST: And they're also basing results based -- we have no results. They were making inferences based on no results.


AXELROD: But, understand, they do, David.

They have results. These campaigns know what happened. They know what happened.




COOPER: Internally, yes.


GREGORY: No, I get that.

But why would the state -- why release a portion of it, when people are already extrapolating based on that? If you had this foul-up, wait until you have got all the results.

BORGER: Well, that's one -- that's a choice they had, and they obviously said, well, we're going to get out what we have, as we would on any election night. However, what if it takes 10 more hours to get -- after you get the

first 50 percent, what if it takes another 10 hours or another day? Then what does that do to the winner?

COOPER: Alexandra, how do you think the Democratic Party has handled -- obviously, there's the mess-up, but the subsequent communication of the mess-up, I mean, how do you think they have handled it thus far?


The fact that we still don't even know what to expect at 4:45 p.m. We don't know how much information they're going to be putting out. We don't even know what kind of results.

ALEXANDRA ROJAS, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR, JUSTICE DEMOCRATS: No, I mean, I think this has ramifications for the credibility within the Democratic Party and our ability to like actually do what we're supposed to, which is, like, have a democratic process to do elections.

And I think we don't know what the results are yet for tonight. We don't know if Joe Biden is going to be third, fourth, fifth, or whatever. But I also think that just from the fact that Pete Buttigieg, Elizabeth Warren, and Bernie Sanders are sort of showing at the top, it is a repudiation of the sort of old guard, this establishment Democratic Party that...

BORGER: In Iowa.

ROJAS: In Iowa, but I think is -- if there hadn't been such a big debacle in Iowa, we would be saying that Iowa is super important and has decided lots of presidential contenders.

So I think now that it's been a debacle, we're trying to lessen the importance of it. But it's still pretty astounding that this is a key state, and we messed it up.

JESS MCINTOSH, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I think we're missing -- one of the things that we're missing by not having results last night is the chance to discuss a reordering of this race.

It has been progressives vs. moderates. That's been the narrative for the last year. And if the top three are what we think they are, we have a winner.

We know which ideology came out on top. Whether that carries through the next states, that's up to the next states to decide. But I do think that we are missing the turn to start talking about 60 percent of the people who showed up last night, according to what entrance numbers we have, are in favor of Medicare for all.

If that holds true as we get finals..

AXELROD: Yes, but 73 percent call themselves moderate or somewhat liberal.


AXELROD: But you made a point earlier today, Alexandra, that I think is really, really important, which is, even though Pete Buttigieg may be a moderate on the ideological scale, he is an outsider on the political scale. He is not a creature of Washington.

And in a sense, he joins with the others in terms of critiquing the status quo, the existing system. And so he's sort of a hybrid, and in that sense, they do fit together.

JENNIFER GRANHOLM, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I mean, we're here lamenting that they're going to be having a press conference, and we don't know how much they're going to release.

They're going to release whatever they have. I don't know -- I mean, if they didn't release whatever, then we would be complaining further about them not releasing whatever they have.


GRANHOLM: So they're going to release whatever they have. They will tell us what they don't have. And they will give us some sort of time frame, presumably, for what the next steps are.

I just want to say one other thing, which is, I'm a little bit surprised that Troy Price is going to be the one taking the questions. I do know that the DNC swooped in to try to fix this.

And I hope that we will be hearing from Tom Perez as well, because I think that one the stories that we have not heard about is that, last August, the Iowa party was going to also add a telephone element to this, remember?

And the party said, no, that's just too risky. So I think the DNC is really concerned about this. And I would be too.


COOPER: If they're not concerned...

GRANHOLM: Obviously. But they're there, and I want to hear from them.


BORGER: Why hasn't Tom Perez come out?


GRANHOLM: Obviously, he's giving Troy Price the first bite.

COOPER: Tom Perez is head of the DNC.


MCINTOSH: How generous of him. (CROSSTALK)

COOPER: We're going to get a quick break in before this press conference.

We're waiting to hear what the Iowa Democratic Party officials have to say. Hope to -- say they have to say a lot about the botched vote count from the caucuses, before they finally released the first official results. That's all about to happen.

Stay with us.



WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST: Looking at the media filing center there in Des Moines, Iowa.

The Iowa Democratic Party chairman, Troy Price, is about to have a news conference, make an announcement. And then, at the top of the hour, David Chalian, we're expecting to get the first results, the first official results, almost 24 hours late, but the first official results from the Iowa caucuses.

DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: The first official results, which may amount to more than half the overall statewide total.

Normally, as you look at election results come in, 10 percent in, 20 percent. This is going to be one immediate dump of a majority, they say, of the statewide vote.

We will also -- it sounds like we're going to learn geographically where this vote is from. They are going to deliver it down to the precinct level. We will be able to see it by county. So we will know -- that's important politically -- where the rest of the vote is out that they aren't dumping in.

And that will help inform the overall totals we're looking at. And, again, as you guys know, we're getting three streams of data, the first round of popular vote for that initial preference round, the final round of popular vote, and the all-important state delegate equivalent percentages.

BLITZER: First time they have done this in Iowa, the Iowa caucuses.

You can't say, Jake -- and I assume you agree with me -- that the Iowa Democratic Party has handled this crisis well?

JAKE TAPPER, CNN HOST: It's hard to imagine how they could have handled it worse, to be honest.

I mean, look, Troy Price, the executive director of the Iowa Democratic Party, was asked about whether they were prepared. Major Garrett from CBS asked if they were ready for a -- quote -- "nightmare scenario." And he said: "These are probably the most prepared we have ever been in these caucuses. We run through a lot of different scenarios, but I can tell you we're ready."

Now, look, that said, problems happen.

CHALIAN: That was before the caucus.

TAPPER: That was before the caucuses.

Problems happen. Mistakes happen. Snafus happened. And if you know what the acronym snafu means, that's what happened.

But I have to say, how they have handled it since made it much worse, because, look, we're in a time where faith in institutions is eroding. Some people are trying to purposely erode it. Other people are accidentally helping to erode it.


And it's very important that people have faith in the integrity of elections, especially after 2016, when the Russians interfered in the election.

And, look, we're in a period right now where President Trump is about to be acquitted. But he was impeached on trying to involve a foreign country in the 2020 election, not through hacking, but through information.

So it's very important that elected officials and party leaders do everything they can to have faith, to encourage faith in the electoral process. And the problem here is, there's been very little communication. There's been very little answering of questions.

There's been very little answering of questions that the campaigns have. There's been very little answering of questions that reporters have. There hasn't been an announcement on, this is what went wrong, and this is what we're doing to make sure that everything turns out OK, and bear with us for a day or two, but at this time we will give you everything you need.

There's been nothing. They have handled this in the exact opposite way that any crisis communication expert would tell you to handle a crisis, which is get out all the information as soon as possible, not data, because they don't have it, but what went wrong. Explain it. Be completely transparent.

Answer every question you can and do this as soon as possible. And they have done the exact opposite of that very classic, very reasonable advice.

BLITZER: What do you think, David, about the fact that the Biden campaign for nearly 24 hours now has been raising questions about the integrity of the Iowa caucuses?

CHALIAN: Well, I don't think it's such an outlandish question. I mean, after looking at the way the process has had -- I do think the

burden is on chairman Troy Price and the party now to say, when they give this press conference, how they are going to prove to the candidates and to the country in a verifiable way that these are accurate vote totals.

The Democratic Party prides itself on access to voting as an issue that they talk about. And Stacey Abrams' entire fair fight piece of this, of making sure every vote is counted, this is like in the bread and butter of the DNA of the Democratic Party.

So it is not -- I understand why the Biden campaign is saying that for its own political purposes.


BLITZER: Well, explain that. Why are they doing that?

CHALIAN: Well, if they think they didn't do so well, they don't want to be in a news cycle about not doing so well in Iowa. So they escaped that because there were no results. And now they're trying to raise questions.

But we should separate out they're doing something for their own political purposes, and I do think there's a legitimate question that there is a burden on the party to say in a verifiable manner these are accurate votes.

TAPPER: That said, as Wolf and I were talking about before, and I'm sure you would agree, David, I mean, caucuses, for all of the ways that they are horrible, or the most transparent way to have a political contest like this.

Dana Bash and I were at Des Moines 47 last night. We know -- everybody in that room knows the final vote totals, who made the threshold of viability, who didn't, who won. Just in case you wondered, in that one precinct, Elizabeth Warren won, then Bernie Sanders and Pete Buttigieg. No one else made the threshold.

But we know that. And in all almost 1,700 precincts, almost 1,700 caucuses, everybody there knows that.

CHALIAN: And all open to the press and to the public.

TAPPER: Everything open to the public, to the press.

Most of the campaigns had at least one person at every single caucus. So it is completely open.

My question for the Biden campaign is, would they have written that letter if they thought that Joe Biden was going to win the Iowa caucus, as opposed to potentially coming in forth?

CHALIAN: I'm sure they wouldn't.

That's what I'm saying. I don't want to... TAPPER: But that's why it's such a cynical exercise.


TAPPER: Your point is completely cogent. Let's see the records. Let's make sure this actually happened the way you said it.


CHALIAN: And they have preference cards this time, right.

TAPPER: Right. Yes. They have the preference cards. There is a paper trail. Let's see it all.

CHALIAN: Exactly.

TAPPER: Because there's no reason to trust you.

But Joe Biden's lawyer sending that letter at a time of the eroding of confidence in the public, when everybody suspects that he only did it because he's going to come in fourth, I don't know.


CHALIAN: Totally fair.

BLITZER: Our political correspondent Abby Phillip is there at the media center in Des Moines.

What are you learning, Abby?

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Wolf, we're just a couple of minutes away from this briefing that we're expecting right behind me.

But my colleague Dan Merica has learned that the Iowa Democratic Party does not plan to brief the campaigns before releasing this information to the press in this room in just a few minutes.

So, as we stand here, we're expecting to get potentially the first bits of official results from the caucuses which happened last night. And it will be news not just to us, but also to the campaigns, who have been, really, frankly, badgering the Democratic Party for as much information as they can get.

And this is according to multiple campaigns, who are now not expecting to learn ahead of time what that data will show.


And already, Wolf, we have heard from several campaigns some concerns about releasing partial data. Several campaigns have concerns on different fronts about what that data will show, whether they will be incomplete and in favor of certain candidates over another.

So I think we can expect that, when this announcement is made, we will be hearing more from these campaigns about why they think that we should continue to wait for a full picture of the data before we make any kind of conclusions about what it all means -- Wolf.

BLITZER: Thank you, Abby.

Jake, we're told that the Democratic Party chair in Iowa, Troy Price, making his way to the stage now.

So, momentarily, I assume he's going to open with a statement. I don't know if he's going to answer reporters' questions.

Do We know if he's going to answer reporters' questions?

TAPPER: We don't. He hasn't exactly been setting a high bar for transparency.

BLITZER: It looks like he's here. Looks like he's -- well, they are walking in there. People are getting ready for it.

We're going to see as soon as this begins. Oh, they're bringing -- all right. They're bringing in the lectern. They're bringing in all the microphones.

They're getting ready for this major announcement.

And we have been waiting almost 24 hours to hear what's going on.

TAPPER: What do you make of the fact that they're not telling -- they're not briefing the campaigns before giving this press conference, David?

CHALIAN: I would say, their earlier statement, Jake, said, we're trying to -- when we release the data, we're trying to do this the way it would have been done on caucus night.


CHALIAN: Campaigns wouldn't have been briefed about vote totals on caucus night.

TAPPER: Right.

CHALIAN: So, I don't think -- I think it's important that they have been in communication with the campaigns and have tried to give them some explanation of what happened.

But it seems to me, if you're releasing vote totals, you don't need to release that to the campaign first. That should be public first.


And, I mean, I just think, ultimately, look, there are -- obviously, there was a huge problem with the app. There was -- this was a huge, huge fiasco, but the fact that the Iowa Democratic Party has not been transparent and open and taking questions about this starting last night, when they realized things were really going haywire, has been a real mistake.

Now, is there opportunity for them to try to clean it up now? Sure, absolutely. And when we get the final results, the campaigns will be able to move on to the next phase, as they have already attempted to do already.

But beyond that, this is a real hit when it comes to, A, the Iowa caucus, and, B, faith that people have in free and fair elections in this country.

BLITZER: Can only imagine, David, the pressure on Troy Price right now to come out and explain what has happened.

CHALIAN: It's so intense.

His entire job for the last couple years has been preparing for last night. He has to pull off a couple of big events as party chair. They have a hall of fame dinner, big fund-raising dinner in June. All the candidates come in for the Iowa State Fair. They have these big cattle calls that -- like the Liberty and Justice Dinner, the biggest one of all, in the fall.

Those are things that the party has had to pull off. But it was all towards this goal of a clean, fair, transparent, and smooth process with the Iowa caucuses.

And that clearly has melted down. So, when the entirety of your function is this one evening, and securing the role for the Iowa caucuses and the nominating process, which I think is rather precarious at this point going forward...

TAPPER: I would be amazed if it continues.

CHALIAN: I agree.

TAPPER: In four years, I cannot envision the Iowa caucuses being allowed to be first, and being allowed to be a caucus, as it was this time. I just can't see it.

There's 49 other states just champing at the bit, wanting to at least -- at least go the same day as the Iowa caucuses.

But, also, you have heard people, even people who have won the Iowa caucus, like Hillary Clinton, saying it's undemocratic, small-D democratic, because, if you're a shift worker, if you have children and you can't afford child care, if you have other commitments, you have an aging parent, you can't afford to spend three or four hours on a Monday night in the middle of winter to go do this.

So already, people were questioning it, not to mention Iowa, of course, being a rather homogeneous state, which is not representative of the Democratic Party voting base anymore.


And they clearly tried to take some pains to have those satellite caucuses, see if the shift workers could come earlier, increase access a little bit.


CHALIAN: But you're right. It just does not provide the same kind of ease of process as a primary day.

BLITZER: Every four years, people start raising questions. Why is Iowa first?

But, this time, it's so much different because of this fiasco over the past 24 hours.

TAPPER: That's true.

But, also, one of the problems was, there were so many candidates who were diverse, Joaquin -- Julian Castro -- sorry, I almost said Joaquin, his brother -- Julian Castro, not to mention obviously Kamala Harris, Cory Booker, candidates who dropped out before the first votes were cast.

So, already, there were questions about, is the Democratic Party doing everything it can to have candidates, to support candidates who are not white candidates? And so you have that problem.


You also had Julian Castro out there, even while he was a candidate, saying, Iowa should not come first. It is not representative of the Democratic Party voting base, and we need to -- why don't -- why doesn't South Carolina go first? Why doesn't Nevada go first? Why doesn't Texas go first?

And so those questions were already being raised. And then you have this fiasco, where it shows that the Iowa Democratic Party can't even do what they were tasked with doing.

BLITZER: You would have thought that this app, this controversial app, they would have tested it and retested it and gone through drills, make sure it was working, a new app, but, clearly, they didn't.

Here comes Troy Price right now, the chair of the Iowa Democratic Party.


And thank you all so much for taking a little time today To chat a little bit about what happened last night.

The reporting of the results and circumstances surrounding the 2020 Iowa Democratic Party caucuses were unacceptable. As chair of the party, I apologize deeply for this.

Last night, we were faced with multiple reporting challenges and decided, out of an abundance of caution, to protect the integrity of the Iowa caucuses and their results by taking the necessary steps to review and confirm the data.

A thorough, transparent And independent examination of what occurred yesterday will follow.

But let me be clear. My number one priority has been on ensuring the accuracy and integrity of the results. And we have been working all night to be in the best position to report results.

And here, in just a couple of minutes, we will be reporting 62 percent of precincts from all 99 counties.

The bottom line is that we hit a stumbling block on the back end of the reporting of the data. But the one thing I want you to know, we know this data is accurate.

And we also have a paper trail and documentation that will -- that have been able to use to provide information to help verify the results.

This is personal to me. I'm a lifelong Iowan. I have caucused for 20 years. And I know how important it is for -- to our party, to our state and to everyone, from our neighbors to new voters, to be able to come together all across the state.

We want Iowans to be confident in the results and in the process. And we are going to take the time that we need to make sure that we do just that.

So, I know folks are going to want to be seeing the results as they come in. I'm happy to take a couple of quick questions before that happens.

QUESTION: How can anyone trust you now?

PRICE: We have been working day and night to make sure that these results are accurate.

The one thing I will say is that the underlying data, the raw data, is secure. It was always secure. This was a coding error in one of the pieces on the back end, but the raw data, the data that has come in, is secure.

And I can assure Iowans of that.


QUESTION: Do you worry it could cost you your first-in-the-nation status or endanger the caucuses (OFF-MIKE)

PRICE: The fact is, is that this is a conversation that happens every four years. There's no doubt that that conversation will take place again.

But, right now, my focus is making sure that we get these results out. We are going to continue to do that. And we will have the results out as soon as we can. JEFF ZELENY, CNN SENIOR WASHINGTON CORRESPONDENT: Troy, when do you believe you will get to 100 percent? When do you believe you will get to 100 percent?

And how can you ensure Americans -- assure Americans that these are verifiably accurate results?

PRICE: Well, we're going to take the time we need to get these results done.

Now that we have the first batch that's going to be coming out here in a couple of minutes, we're going to continue to go through our processes, verifying everything.

But the thing to remember here, folks, is that we have a paper trail. We have always said all along that -- throughout this process that we have backups to the system, that we have redundancies built in.

And one of the ways that we do that is through the paper trail.

Now, the fact is, is that, as we started doing this last night, it took longer than we expected. And so -- but the -- my paramount concern is making sure that these results are accurate and reflect what happened last night in caucuses across the state.

We're going to do just that. And that's -- we're going to take the time we need to.

ZELENY: And when will that be? When will that 100 percent be, Troy? When will that be? When will that 100 percent be, Troy?

Do you have an estimate for when that will be?

QUESTION: When was the app submitted for review by an independent third party? Why was the app never tested statewide?