- The Washington Times - Monday, February 10, 2020

Amazon Web Services wants to depose President Trump and other top administration officials in its lawsuit over the Pentagon’s giant cloud computing contract, according to court documents made public Monday, raising the stakes in a case that is shaping up to be a major legal headache for the White House.

In its federal court filing, Amazon argues that President Trump’s personal vendetta toward the company and CEO Jeff Bezos — who also owns The Washington Post — led directly to the Pentagon’s awarding late last year to Microsoft, not Amazon, of a massive 10-year, $10 billion cloud computing contract.

Mr. Trump weighed in on problems with the contract last year, but the Pentagon vehemently denied that the White House exerted any political pressure throughout the process.

Amazon argued Monday that it is impossible to know exactly what role, if any, the president played without putting him under oath. They called the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract process “fatally flawed and highly unusual” and suggested that only Mr. Trump can provide answers.

Amazon is also seeking testimony from Defense Secretary Mark Esper, former Defense Secretary James Mattis and other Pentagon officials involved in the JEDI process.

Amazon, which already operated a secure cloud contract for the CIA, was widely seen as the favorite for the Defense Department deal before Microsoft was chosen.

“President Trump has repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to use his position as president and commander in chief to interfere with government functions — including federal procurements — to advance his personal agenda,” an Amazon spokesperson said in a statement just after the court filing became public.

“The preservation of public confidence in the nation’s procurement process requires discovery and supplementation of the administrative record, particularly in light of President Trump’s order to ‘screw Amazon.’ The question is whether the president of the United States should be allowed to use the budget of the DoD to pursue his own personal and political ends.”

The “screw Amazon” charge stems from claims by Guy Snodgrass, a former aide to Mr. Mattis, in a recently released book. Mr. Snodgrass said the president told Mr. Mattis to “screw Amazon” out of the contract, underscoring his personal animus toward the company. The Defense Department has denied those allegations.

The selection of Microsoft in October came as a shock to defense industry analysts because Amazon seemed virtually certain to be awarded the contract. Ironically, another early competitor, Oracle Corp., filed a lawsuit charging that the Pentagon’s bidding process unfairly favored Amazon. A federal judge dismissed that lawsuit.

For Amazon, the loss of the contract meant the loss of billions of dollars while its rival, Microsoft, is poised to be at the forefront of technological advancement in the military. The JEDI contract will cover the storage and processing of huge amounts of classified Pentagon data, and Microsoft will be linked in an unprecedented high-tech partnership with the Defense Department.

The JEDI program, informally known as the military’s “war cloud,” will enable the immediate sharing of data to battlefields around the world and would greatly aid the military in virtually everything it does.

Amazon and Microsoft were the only two companies left in the running in October.

In its argument, Amazon cited specific instances in which the president spoke out against the company. Mr. Trump has accused Amazon of not paying its fair share of federal taxes, among other things.

Mr. Trump spoke out last summer on the JEDI contract amid speculation that the Pentagon constructed the bidding process in a way that favored Amazon.

“I’m getting tremendous complaints about the contract with the Pentagon and with Amazon. They’re saying it wasn’t competitively bid,” the president said in July. “And I will be asking them to look at it very closely to see what’s going on because I have had very few things where there’s been such complaining.”

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