Amazon Attacks Trump for “Improper Pressure” in Pentagon Deal


Amazon claimed in new court documents that it lost a multibillion-dollar cloud computing contract with the Pentagon due to “improper direct intervention” by President Donald Trump, who had vowed “to screw” the tech company and its founder, Jeff Bezos.

It cited presidential tweets and other evidence that Trump engaged in a long-standing personal vendetta against Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post.

It charged Trump steered the Pentagon away from Amazon, the overwhelming favorite to win the the $10 billion Joint Enterprise Development InfrastructureOpens a new window , or “Jedi,” contract, to a lessor bidder with dire implications for the country’s national security.

The Washington Post, whose slogan is “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” has aggressively covered the Trump administration since Inauguration Day and the fast-moving impeachment crisis now enveloping Trump. Its top editors have said repeatedly that Bezos does not instruct them what to publish.

Egregious errors, improper pressure

In a redacted court complaintOpens a new window made public this week, Amazon cited “egregious errors” in the Pentagon’s evaluation process, stemming from “improper pressure” from Trump.

Amazon said it harmed national security and led to a second-place bid with “clear failures” from Microsoft. The eventual contract will upgrade and link all of the military’s old computer systems and integrate them with the cloud.

Amazon’s cloud arm, Amazon Web Services, which won a similar contract from the CIA, was considered the favorite to win the bidding due to its experience and cloud dominance.

“Basic justice requires reevaluation of proposals and a new award decision,” Amazon wrote in the filing. “The stakes are high. The question is whether the President of the United States should be allowed to use the budget of (the Defense Department) to pursue his own personal and political ends.”

The impeachment crisis

The court filing came as the House of Representatives was expected to approve articles of impeachment accusing Trump of abusing his powers and stonewalling subpoenas.

The president stands accused of running a scheme to force Ukraine’s leader to investigate a political rival, Joe Biden, and his son. The constitutional crisis is expected to continue next year in the Senate as it considers removing Trump from office.

Amazon is the leader in the cloud computing marketOpens a new window , with a 48% market share, according to market research firm Gartner, way ahead of Microsoft’s 15.5%. And Amazon is the only company with the ability to encrypt documents to the top-secret level required by the Pentagon.

The company’s complaint, filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, cite multiple tweets and several videos of Trump targeting the company, Bezos and the Post as proof of interference by the commander-in-chief. It resulted in the Pentagon “consciously or subconsciously” internalizing his view to change the outcome, Amazon said.

The Pentagon insisted that the bid was awarded by “an expert team” of military officers and career public servants who were not subject to any outside influences and in accordance with “normal” selection processes.

The White House withheld comment.

For his part, Bezos told a recent gathering of defense-affiliated contractors and officials in California that Amazon remains committed to working with the Pentagon and supporting its projects.

He warned that the United States’ national security would be endangered if the tech industry turned its back on the Defense Department. “We are going to support the Department of Defense” Bezos told the audience. “This country is important.”

The Chinese Walls argument

Opinions are mixed about whether Amazon’s Jedi protest will win the day and whether the Pentagon’s so-called Chinese Walls against conflicts of interest were breached to keep Trump’s ire from the Pentagon’s election team.

“The notion that presidential suggestions or guidance can influence a Pentagon procurement decision betrays a fundamental lack of understanding of how the acquisition processes work within the DoD,” defense analyst Thomas Spoehr told PoliticoOpens a new window .

Andrew Hunter, a former acquisition staffer at the Pentagon who now works at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, added that Amazon will “have an opportunity to go through discovery and compile evidence of any potential contacts between people at the White House and Department of Defense.”

The process, he said, will determine “any ways in which information from those conversations, if they exist, may have gotten through to the source selection team.”