The Iowa Democratic Party (IDP) still has not reported official vote totals in the critical Iowa Caucuses as of early Tuesday morning, in a largely unexplained and unprecedented delay that has raised questions about the legitimacy of the contest — and Democratic campaign officials are livid, Fox News has learned.
The Trump campaign, meanwhile, suggested that the delay meant that the caucuses were being "rigged," and that the embarrassing night proved that the Democratic Party can't be trusted to run Americans' health care and implement sweeping new government programs.
Even if a winner were ultimately announced, the chaos and confusion has seemingly erased any hope for the major momentum boost that would normally result. The first-in-the-nation Iowa Caucuses account for only 41 of the total 3,979 pledged Democratic delegates nationally, but analysts have said when momentum and media attention are factored in, the caucuses are 20 times more important than delegate totals would suggest.
"We found inconsistencies in the reporting of three sets of results," the IDP said in a statement at 11:30 p.m. EST. "In addition to the tech systems being used to tabulate results, we are also using photos of results and a paper trail to validate that all results match and ensure that we have confidence and accuracy in the numbers we report. This is simply a reporting issue. The app did not go down and this is not a hack or an intrusion. The underlying data and paper trail is sound and will simply take time to further report the results."
Fox News is told that during an initial conference call with the campaigns, an IDP representative said the party would be "getting photos of the paper results sent over," but didn't answer any questions and then hung up on all the campaigns, even as frustrated staffers pushed for answers. A campaign staffer told Fox News the IDP's brief call was "crazy."
Another campaign official told Fox News, “Yes, they did hang up.”
During a second, equally contentious conference call early Tuesday morning, the IDP reportedly informed campaigns they could expect results sometime later on Tuesday, but gave no information about how the results would be verified or when precisely they would be published. (The 2016 Iowa caucus tallies were provided on the same day of voting, with more than 90 percent of precincts reporting by 11:00 p.m. ET that year.)
Speaking on a brief call with reporters at approximately 1:10 a.m. ET on Tuesday that lasted a little over a minute, the IDP said the system to validate electoral results was taking longer than expected, but that there had been no hack or intrusion. The IDP did not specify a precise time for results to post on Tuesday.
Former Vice President Joe Biden's campaign wrote to the IDP late Tuesday, complaining about the "considerable flaws" in the caucus reporting process. Biden, who arrived in New Hampshire early Tuesday, appeared to be dramatically underperforming at several precincts in Iowa throughout the night.
"The app that was intended to relay Caucus results to the Party failed; the Party’s back-up telephonic reporting system likewise has failed," the campaign wrote in a letter. "Now, we understand that Caucus Chairs are attempting to — and, in many cases, failing to — report results telephonically to the Party. These acute failures are occurring statewide. We appreciate that you plan to brief the campaigns momentarily on these issues, and we plan to participate. However, we believe that the campaigns deserve full explanations and relevant information regarding the methods of quality control you are employing, and an opportunity to respond, before any official results are released."
Screenshots posted to social media seemingly showed crash screens from the caucus app that indicated poor programming, as well as potential hacking vulnerabilities.
"With every passing minute that there is a delay, we worry that the process will lose credibility."
About an hour earlier, IDP spokesperson Mandy McClure said in a statement, "The integrity of the results is paramount. We have experienced a delay in the results due to quality checks and the fact that the IDP is reporting out three data sets for the first time. What we know right now is that around 25% of precincts have reported, and early data indicates turnout is on pace for 2016."
However, the turnout in the 2016 Democratic caucuses in Iowa was only 171,109. That was far below the nearly 240,000 that took part in the 2008 Democratic caucuses, when then-Sen. Barack Obama won the contest — indicating that Democrats' high hopes for enthusiasm have not panned out.
"With every passing minute that there is a delay, we worry that the process will lose credibility," a top Elizabeth Warren aide told CNN.
Former 2020 presidential contender Julian Castro tweeted: "This is a total mess. I respect the people of Iowa, they’ve been great—but it’s become very clear that our democracy has been misserved by a broken system."
Buttigieg declares victory — without votes
The void of information allowed campaigns to spin the results in their favor. Former South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg even said he was "victorious" early Tuesday and that Iowa had "shocked the nation," claiming the campaign's internal numbers showed he had pulled ahead.
"Seventy-seven percent of our precinct captains have reported results from their caucuses," a Buttigieg aide told Fox News, noting that previous projections "had the race at a virtual tie on state delegate equivalents, but from the 77 percent of reported precincts, we’re performing 8 points better than our projections."
The aide added: "We believe we’re on our way to winning the SDE [State Delegate Equivalent] count. In the 1,301 precincts our precinct captains have reported, Pete reached viability in 1,064 (83 percent). For additional context, turnout returned to historical norms and we expect participation rates to wind up near 2016 levels. We found that our support in rural parts of the state was ~5 percent better than we expected (coming in at 28 percent so far.)"
Former presidiential candidate Marianne Williamson remarked incredulously from the sidelines, "Did Pete Buttigieg just claim victory in Iowa when the results haven’t been announced yet?"
Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders went rogue, and released internal data that his campaign said represented vote totals 40 percent of precincts. The figures, which indicated Sanders was winning with a narrow lead over Buttigieg, were also unverified.
In a surreal moment shortly before Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar took the stage at her Iowa headquarters to thank her supporters – even as no voting results were available – a precinct chief was being interviewed on CNN while he was on hold for more than an hour with the IDP to report results.
The IDP then hung up on the precinct chief live on-air after he took too long to respond once they took him off hold.
At least four precincts had to resolve ties in their vote results by flipping a coin during the evening, Fox News has learned.
Speaking at 11:30 p.m. EST, Biden said he felt good about the caucus, then remarked, "So it's on to New Hampshire, Nevada, South Carolina, and well beyond. We're in this for the long haul."
"I want to thank the Iowans that are here," Biden said. "Well, the Democratic Party is working to get this result to get it straight. And I want to make sure they're very careful in their deliberations. ... We're gonna walk out of here with our share of delegates. We don't know exactly what it is yet, but we feel good about where we are."
Taking the microphone 10 minutes later, Sanders said that when the results were in, he had a "good feeling we're going to be doing very very well here in Iowa."
Nearing midnight local time, the bar at Sanders headquarters was packed and the crowd had not thinned at all.
Klobuchar's team, for their part, sounded its own note of optimism.
"Big night in Iowa," Klobuchar campaign chairman Justin Buoen wrote on Twitter. "With the numbers we’ve seen internally and publicly, we’re running even or ahead of Vice President Biden. Wheels up to New Hampshire!”
Trump team mocks 'rigged' vote
Before voting began, the IDP had announced that for the first time ever, it would report three sets of results at the end of the state’s first-in-the-nation caucuses: a tally of caucus-goers’ initial candidate preference; vote totals from the “final alignment” after supporters of lower-ranking candidates were able to make a second choice, and the total number of State Delegate Equivalents each candidate receives. There was no guarantee that all three will show the same winner.
By the end of the night, it became clear that there was no guarantee there would be any winner at all.
In social media posts, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) had boasted that it had been "preparing" for the Iowa process "for three years" to make the primary process "the most transparent" ever.
As the situation broke down minute by minute, the Trump campaign mocked the delay on Twitter, even as it celebrated the huge crowds at GOP caucuses in the state that showed up to vote for the president.
"Quality control = rigged?" asked Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale.
“Democrats are stewing in a caucus mess of their own creation with the sloppiest train wreck in history," Parscale said in a statement just after midnight. "It would be natural for people to doubt the fairness of the process. And these are the people who want to run our entire health care system?"
Parscale added: "Tonight President Trump posted a record performance in the well-run GOP Iowa caucuses with record turnout for an incumbent.”
For his part, with just hours to go until his State of the Union address Tuesday night, Trump tweeted only, "Big WIN for us in Iowa tonight. Thank you!"
"If the Democrats can’t run a #caucus that they had four years to prepare for, how the hell can anyone think they could actually run the country?" Donald Trump, Jr., tweeted.
Sanders supporters storm out
The drama began unfolding late Monday, as the night wound on without any official vote figures released. In one precinct, Sanders reportedly won by 20 points, but received only one delegate -- along with four other candidates.
Sanders supporters called the situation a "joke" and stormed out, according to The Washington Examiner's Philip Klein.
Each candidate has to meet a threshold of 15 percent to be considered viable in each precinct. That means the number of people backing a candidate has to be at least 15 percent of the total number of people in the room at the local caucus.
For example, if there are 100 people in the room and 14 are backing a particular candidate, that candidate is not considered viable. If a candidate is determined to be not viable, that contender’s supporters would be given the opportunity to support another candidate in the next round.
An adviser to Biden told Fox News he was watching the caucus coverage with his family in Des Moines, and that the entry polls they’ve seen lined up with what the campaign was expecting -- although it wasn't clear what polls the adviser was referring to.
"Joe's had Iowa to himself," Donald Trump, Jr., told Bloomberg News Monday night, alluding to Biden's ability to campaign in the state while Warren and Klobuchar stayed in Washington, D.C. for Senate impeachment proceedings. "If he doesn't win big tonight, I think that's very indicative of his campaign."
In an unexpected move, almost all of the caucus-goers for the nonviable candidates at the Drake University precinct in Des Moines teamed up for Cory Booker, who has already dropped out of the presidential race. The caucus-goers told Fox News tactic was designed to keep delegates always from the viable candidates.
There were 402 caucus-goers after the first alignment, and three reached viability: Warren with 120, Buttigieg with 101, and Sanders with 100. The nonviable were Andrew Yang with 33, Biden with 17, Klobuchar with 24, and Tom Steyer with 1.
The precinct leaders for the nonviable candidates told Fox News the strategy was purely decided among the caucus-goers at the Drake University precinct and did not represent a statewide strategy dictated by the campaigns.
Ultimately, Warren and Buttigieg each received 2 delegates from the Drake precinct, and Sanders and Booker each received 1.
A member of the Buttigieg campaign, meanwhile, told Fox News, "We’re reaching into every demographic and across cities, suburbs, and rural areas, and communities, including [Barack] Obama counties that flipped to [Donald] Trump in 2016. That’s a good sign for accumulating delegates, but also makes the case that Pete’s uniquely positioned to take on Donald Trump."
The Buttigieg advisor added: "The best data point [in the entry polls] is that Pete’s leading with new caucus-goers."
Late in the evening, at 10:45 p.m. ET, the Buttigieg team told Fox News the IDP wasn't in touch concerning the delay in posting the results.
A senior Klobuchar official separately told Fox News the campaign was very happy with early indicators, and that she was showing “more strength than we were expecting in some areas."
The Klobuchar team also said the IDP hasn't kept them in the loop concerning the delayed vote results.
Votes from Scotland
The action was taking place at 1,679 precincts across the state – held in school gymnasiums, church basements, union halls, community centers, libraries and other locations.
This year, there was another new twist: Iowa Democrats who couldn't make it to their local caucus site were able to take part at one of the additional 987 additional satellite caucuses across the state, the country and the globe.
These new satellite caucuses took place at factories, firehouses, group homes or community gathering places. The new option should help shift workers, Iowans with disabilities and those serving overseas take part.
Only registered Democrats were allowed to take part in the Democratic caucuses.
Dr. Jane Sanders, the wife of Bernie Sanders, told Fox News Monday evening that although Hillary Clinton narrowly bested her husband in the 2016 Iowa caucuses, this year would be different.
"In 2016, he was just getting to be known by the people of Iowa," she said. "They didn't know him. Now they've watched him over the last four years, never back down on the issues that he talked about, that he continued to work on. And I think they know that he is there for the right reasons to improve their quality of life, to have more fairness and equity and justice in our country, both racial, social, economic, environmental justice."
Some of the earliest results of the Iowa caucuses trickled in from thousands of miles away earlier in the day.
In Glasgow, Scotland, Sanders won the most support in a small, satellite caucus for Iowans living abroad.
Sanders received support from nine of the 19 caucus-goers who attended. Warren ended up with six supporters, and Buttigieg had three. (The last attendee didn't support a candidate.)
The other candidates were not viable. Biden received no votes. The results can hardly be considered meaningful -- some 200,000 people are expected to caucus Monday night.
This is the first time Iowa Democrats have held caucuses outside Iowa. The remote sites are intended to make the caucuses more inclusive to Iowans living out of state or abroad.
Meanwhile, Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg said Monday he has no regrets on skipping the Iowa caucuses.
The billionaire former New York City mayor was campaigning in California as his rivals for the Democratic nomination prepared for the first-in-the-nation Iowa caucuses.
Bloomberg suggested that his rivals were falling behind in the race. He noted in Compton that he has made stops in 24 states and 60 cities while the other candidates have been hunkered down in Iowa.
He'd like to think he's a few steps ahead. “I hope so,” Bloomberg said.
Fox News' Paul Steinhauser, Ellison Barber, Nicholas Kalman, Andres del Aguila, Bill Hemmer, Jacqui Heinrich and Peter Doocy in Des Moines, Iowa, contributed to this report, as well as The Associated Press.