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Amazon wants to question Trump over losing $10-billion contract bid

Jeff Bezos
Amazon said in a court filing that President Trump has a “well-documented personal animus towards” the company and its Chief Executive Jeff Bezos.
(Getty Images)

Amazon.com Inc. wants President Trump to submit to questioning over the tech company’s losing bid for a $10-billion military contract.

The Pentagon awarded the cloud computing project to Microsoft Corp. in October. Amazon later sued, arguing that Trump’s interference and bias against the company harmed Amazon’s chances of winning.

Amazon was considered an early front-runner for a project that Pentagon officials have described as crucial to advancing the U.S. military’s technological advantage over adversaries. The project, known as Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, will store and process vast amounts of classified data, enabling the U.S. military to improve communications with soldiers on the battlefield and use artificial intelligence to speed up its war planning and fighting capabilities.

The Pentagon was preparing to announce its decision between finalists Amazon and Microsoft when Trump publicly waded into the fray in July. Trump said then that other companies told him the contract “wasn’t competitively bid,” and he said the administration would “take a very long look.” Oracle Corp. had also protested after it and IBM Corp. were eliminated from an earlier round of bidding.

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Amazon is looking for more information about what happened before and after Trump ordered a review. Amazon’s court filing cites an alleged comment that surfaced in a book last year that said Trump privately told then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis to “screw Amazon” out of the contract.

George Washington University procurement law expert Steve Schooner said a deposition of Trump would be “clearly relevant to the primary allegations underlying their lawsuit,” but that doesn’t mean it will happen.

“I can’t imagine this president sitting for that deposition,” Schooner said in an email Monday.

Amazon is also asking to depose Mattis, current Defense Secretary Mark Esper and other government officials.

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In a filing with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims unsealed Monday, Amazon said Trump has a “well-documented personal animus towards” Amazon, its Chief Executive Jeff Bezos and the Washington Post, which Bezos owns. Amazon says Trump is the only person who can testify about the “totality of his conversations and the overall message he conveyed” about the bidding process.

Trump has accused Amazon of not paying its fair share of taxes and of putting brick-and-mortar stores out of business. Trump has also gone after Bezos personally and accused the Post of being Amazon’s “chief lobbyist.”

The Justice Department said it does not comment on ongoing litigation. The White House and the Pentagon didn’t immediately return requests for comment Monday.

Amazon said in a statement Monday that it’s important to discover what happened to preserve public confidence in the procurement process because Trump has repeatedly demonstrated his willingness to interfere with government processes to advance his personal interests.

“The question is whether the President of the United States should be allowed to use the budget of the [Department of Defense] to pursue his own personal and political ends,” the company said.

A judge is expected to decide as early as this week on whether Microsoft can start working with the Pentagon on the cloud computing project. Amazon has asked for work to be halted as its lawsuit proceeds.


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