Amazon: Trump interfered with Pentagon contract in order to hurt Bezos
Amazon alleged on Monday that President Donald Trump abused his position to apply “improper pressure” on Pentagon decision-makers to stop the company from winning a military contract worth billions of dollars.
In a formal protest unsealed at the US Court of Federal Claims, Amazon said Trump “launched repeated public and behind-the-scenes attacks” against the company in an effort to undermine its bid and hurt CEO Jeff Bezos, “his perceived political enemy” because of his ownership of The Washington Post.
The complaint calls for the Defense Department to revisit its decision to award the contract to Microsoft. Hanging in the balance is a Pentagon procurement effort for cloud computing valued at $10 billion over 10 years.
“The stakes are high,” Amazon said. “The question is whether the President of the United States should be allowed to use the budget of DoD to pursue his own personal and political ends.” The White House declined to comment.
In a statement, the Defense Department said it would not be commenting on specific claims in Amazon’s filing concerning the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, cloud computing contract.
“This source selection decision was made by an expert team of career public servants and military officers from across the Department of Defense and in accordance with DoD’s normal source-selection process,” said Pentagon spokesperson Elissa Smith. “There were no external influences on the source selection decision. The department is confident in the JEDI award and remains focused on getting this critical capability into the hands of our warfighters as quickly and efficiently as possible.”
Amazon’s filing comes as House lawmakers prepare articles of impeachment over Trump’s potential abuse of power for allegedly pressuring Ukraine’s president to investigate his political rival Joe Biden and Biden’s son, Hunter.
Amazon’s complaint against Trump over the JEDI cloud computing contract zeroes in on the process of government contracting. The procurement process typically takes place under strict guidelines and outside the direction of political leaders.
The company, a leader in the cloud computing market with its Amazon Web Services unit, was long viewed as the front runner for the contract. Amazon now alleges the Defense Department made “inexplicable” errors in selecting Microsoft as the winner.
In a statement, Microsoft said it had “confidence” in the Defense Department staff who conducted the review. “We believe the facts will show they ran a detailed, thorough and fair process in determining the needs of the warfighter were best met by Microsoft,” the company said.
According to the Amazon’s filing, however, Pentagon officials reviewed an outdated version of Amazon’s bid, ignored certain aspects of Amazon’s capabilities and applied different levels of scrutiny to Amazon that Microsoft did not receive.
That treatment, Amazon claims, is a direct result of Trump’s intervention. Amazon cited Trump’s tweets, news articles about JEDI and a book about then-Defense Secretary James Mattis that claims Trump said he wanted Mattis to “screw Amazon” over the contract.
Trump has repeatedly gone after Bezos for his ownership of The Washington Post and the publication’s coverage of him. While campaigning for office, Trump promised Amazon would have “such problems” if he became president. He has also complained that Amazon pays the US Postal Service a heavily subsidized rate for shipping its packages.
Prior to Microsoft winning the JEDI deal in October, Trump publicly vowed to take a “strong look” at the contract in response to complaints about the process from numerous businesses, including IBM, Microsoft and Oracle.
CNN reported in July that Oracle was behind a campaign to undercut Amazon. The effort included a document that alleged a vast government conspiracy to help Amazon win the JEDI contract — a document that was presented to Trump earlier this summer.
Ryan Browne contributed to this report.