×
FOLLOW THE WEEK ON FACEBOOK
February 3, 2016

Many Americans — and journalists — were puzzled to learn that Iowa Democrats sometimes award presidential candidates county-level delegates based on a coin toss. The popular narrative that emerged from Monday's caucuses is that luck was with Hillary Clinton, and that her team's winning coin-flip picks swayed the election results. Take, for example, this caucus-night report from MSNBC:

Coin tosses aren't reported in the official tallies, so it's not clear how many county delegates were awarded by heads versus tails. But Iowa Democratic Party spokesman Sam Lau tells The Des Moines Register that seven coin flips were reported statewide, and that Bernie Sanders won six of them. The Register, looking at social media and one first-person report, also identified seven coin tosses at Democratic caucuses, with Clinton winning six. The newspaper has requested an official tally of precinct coin tosses and their outcomes to clear up the confusion.

But regardless, it's unlikely that the coin tosses affected the outcome — the official results are 700.59 state delegate equivalents for Clinton (49.8 percent), 696.82 SDEs for Sanders (49.6 percent). That's because, unlike MSNBC's report, the coin tosses don't decide statewide delegates but county delegates, of which there are about 11,000 across Iowa, versus 1,400 state delegate equivalents. The county-level delegates are used in a formula to determine the SDEs, but each one has only a tiny impact on the SDE count.

"The data we have suggest the game of chance was a rare occurrence and of the data we have, Sanders won the majority of those delegates that were chosen through the game of chance," former Iowa Democratic Party executive director Norm Sterzenbach, a Clinton supporter, tells The Des Moines Register. Coin tosses may seem like an arcane way to resolve ties or delegate disputes, he said, but the party has used them for a long time, including in the 2008 caucuses that propelled Barack Obama to victory. You can read more about the coin tosses, and the chaos at Monday's caucuses, at The Des Moines Register. Peter Weber

3:23 p.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

Special Counsel Robert Mueller appears to be delving specifically into President Trump's "behavior in the White House," The New York Times reported Wednesday. Mueller has recently requested more information on "13 different areas" related to Trump's actions in office, as part of his ongoing investigation into Russian election meddling and the Trump team's potential ties to it:

One of the requests is about a meeting Mr. Trump had in May with Russian officials in the Oval Office the day after James B. Comey, the F.B.I. director, was fired. That day, Mr. Trump met with the Russian foreign minister, Sergey V. Lavrov, and the Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergey I. Kislyak, along with other Russian officials. The New York Times reported that in the meeting Mr. Trump had said that firing Mr. Comey relieved "great pressure" on him.

Mr. Mueller has also requested documents about the circumstances of the firing of Michael T. Flynn, who was Mr. Trump's first national security adviser. Additionally, the special counsel has asked for documents about how the White House responded to questions from The Times about a June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower. That meeting was set up by Donald Trump Jr., the president's eldest son, to get derogatory information from Russians about Hillary Clinton. [The New York Times]

Trump lawyer Ty Cobb has reportedly assured Mueller's team that he will turn over the relevant documents and notes this week. Becca Stanek

2:40 p.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) stunned his colleagues in the Senate when he torpedoed the Republican health-care bill with a tie-breaking no vote in July. With the GOP prepared to send its latest iteration of the health-care bill to the floor sometime next week, McCain is now poised to potentially make or break the legislation yet again.

Republicans have a Sept. 30 deadline for passing a health-care bill with only 50 votes. The Congressional Budget Office won't have its analysis on how much the bill would affect coverage or its costs for consumers until October. Additionally, the hearing on the bill will be before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs committee, which "does not have primary jurisdiction over health care, making a formal markup of the bill impossible," Politico writes.

Despite the bill's co-sponsor, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), being McCain's close friend, McCain has stressed to Politico that he is dissatisfied with how his party is pushing the bill. "Nothing has changed," he said Wednesday. "If [Senate Majority Leader Mitch] McConnell wants to put it on the floor, that's up to McConnell. I am the same as I was before. I want the regular order."

Asked to clarify if that means he is voting no, McCain replied: "That means I want the regular order. It means I want the regular order!"

Three GOP defections would kill the bill. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) are believed to be opposed to the bill. In addition to McCain, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) is reportedly on the fence about the legislation. Jeva Lange

2:19 p.m. ET

At a United Nations lunch Wednesday with African leaders, President Trump marveled at Africa's "tremendous business potential." "I have so many friends going to your countries trying to get rich," he said. "I congratulate you, they're spending a lot of money."

Trump thinks the U.S. could benefit from teaming up with Africa, too. "In this room I see partners for promoting prosperity and peace on a range of economic, humanitarian, and security issues. We hope to extend our economic partnerships with countries who are committed to self-reliance and to fostering opportunities for job creation in both Africa and the United States," Trump said, noting that "six of the world's 10 fastest growing economies are in Africa."

At another point in the speech, Trump referenced the country of Nambia, which does not exist.

Catch a snippet of his praise for Africa's business opportunities for his "many friends" below. Becca Stanek

2:03 p.m. ET

President Trump announced that the nonexistent country of "Nambia" has an increasingly self-sufficient health-care system during a United Nations lunch with African leaders on Wednesday:

So far, Trump appears to have failed to impress African leaders — a photo of the Zimbabwean delegation listening to Trump's U.N. speech on Tuesday went viral and President Robert Mugabe appeared to sleep through the whole thing.

Watch Trump completely make up the nation of Nambia below. Jeva Lange

1:43 p.m. ET
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The Senate plans to vote on the latest iteration of the Republican health-care bill next week, a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said Wednesday. "It is the leader's intention to consider Graham-Cassidy on the floor next week," the spokesperson told Politico.

The bill, co-sponsored by Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bill Cassidy (R-La.), would convert ObamaCare subsidies and Medicaid payments into block grants to states, allowing each state ample leeway to decide coverage rules and patient protections, plus cut Medicaid sharply. On Tuesday, a group of 11 governors, including five Republicans and independent Gov. Bill Walker (Alaska), urged the Senate to drop Graham-Cassidy, joining the AARP, the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, and other patient advocacy groups, plus Jimmy Kimmel.

Efforts to write an alternative, bipartisan health-care bill proved fruitless. Republicans have a Sept. 30 deadline for passing a health-care bill with only 50 votes. Three GOP defections would kill the bill. Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) are believed to be opposed to the bill; Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and John McCain (R-Ariz.) remain undeclared swing votes. Jeva Lange

12:57 p.m. ET
Theo Wargo/Getty Images

Sean Penn is slated to star in an upcoming Hulu original series about humanity's first mission to Mars. The series, called The First, was made by Beau Willimon, the creator of the Netflix original smash-hit series House of Cards.

This marks the two-time Oscar winner's "first regular role" on a television series, Variety noted. The show, set in the near future, "will depict the challenges a group of astronauts face while trying to achieve interplanetary colonization, while following the lives of their loved ones on Earth and the ground team overseeing the mission," Mashable reported. Penn's role has not yet been revealed.

The show is set to premiere next year. Becca Stanek

11:53 a.m. ET
Aaron P. Bernstein/Getty Images

A stunningly large percentage of President Trump's supporters approve of his decision to compromise with Democrats on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. A new The Economist/YouGov poll released Wednesday revealed that 49 percent of Trump voters approve of Trump's decision to cut a deal over dinner with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) to pass a law granting permanent legal status to DREAMers, immigrants protected under DACA who were brought illegally to the U.S. as children. Thirty-nine percent disapprove of the compromise Trump struck just days after rescinding DACA.

That wasn't all that Trump's supporters approved of him working on with the Democrats. The poll also revealed that 72 percent of Trump voters approve of the president working with Democrats on health care, 73 percent approve of across-the aisle work on tax reform, 66 percent approve of bipartisan efforts on immigration issues, and 62 percent approve of Trump teaming up with Democrats on the environment.

The poll surveyed 1,500 respondents from Sept. 17-19. Its margin of error is plus or minus 3 percentage points. Becca Stanek

See More Speed Reads