What to Know
- Amazon’s cloud computing arm wants to depose President Donald Trump, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and former Defense Secretary James Mattis over a $10 billion Pentagon cloud contract awarded to Microsoft, according to court documents unsealed Monday.
- Amazon Web Services (AWS) said in the filing that it wants to depose Trump to learn more about any private conversations or instructions that were given in regard to the JEDI contract award.
- In November, Amazon filed a notice in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims indicating a plan to protest the Pentagon’s decision to award Microsoft the multibillion-dollar cloud contract.
In court documents unsealed and filed Monday, Amazon’s cloud computing arm said it’s looking to depose seven “individuals who were instrumental” in the JEDI source selection and “played pivotal roles” in the ultimate awarding of the contract. Aside from Trump, Mattis and Esper, Amazon Web Services is also seeking to depose the Defense Department’s chief information officer, Dana Deasy, and the source selection authority, which awarded the contract to Microsoft, as well as the chairpersons of the SSA, according to the documents.
A spokesperson for AWS told CNBC in a statement: “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. 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.”
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The White House declined to comment. Representatives from the Defense Department declined to comment. Microsoft also declined to comment.
The Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, cloud computing contract could be worth up to $10 billion for services rendered over as many as 10 years. The Pentagon selected Microsoft over Amazon for the colossal contract on Oct. 25. Amazon was initially seen as the favorite to win the contract, then Trump said in July he was looking into the contract after IBM and other companies protested the bidding process.
In November, Amazon filed a notice in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims indicating a plan to protest the Pentagon’s decision to award Microsoft the multibillion-dollar cloud contract. Amazon claimed that the JEDI evaluation process contained “clear deficiencies, errors, and unmistakable bias.”
Amazon said in court documents made public last December that Trump launched “behind-the-scenes attacks” against the company, which caused it to lose out on the JEDI contract. Some of those alleged attacks were detailed in Mattis’ recent memoir, in which the former Defense secretary claimed Trump told him to “screw Amazon” out of the contract.
AWS said it’s looking to depose Trump about his involvement in the bidding process, including any private conversations that took place or any instructions that were given regarding the award, as well as any “efforts to harm Amazon or AWS.”
“While other individuals can testify about specific conversations he had with them individually, President Trump is the only individual who can testify about the totality of his conversations and the overall message he conveyed,” according to the filings. “Moreover, President Trump has unique knowledge about whether he had other, previously undisclosed conversations with individuals not previously identified, and who therefore do not appear on the deposition list.”
AWS wants to depose Mattis because it claims he has “highly relevant, first-hand knowledge about Trump’s animus toward Mr. Bezos and Amazon and the efforts President Trump took to pressure DoD officials” on the JEDI contract award.
AWS claims Esper intervened in the JEDI award process to “conduct an ‘examination’ at President Trump’s behest.” Esper announced last August that he would review the JEDI contract and recused himself from the JEDI source selection process last October. AWS said the timing, circumstances and announcement of Esper’s recusal raises concerns and that it would seek further details about his recusal by deposing Esper.
Bezos has been a constant source of frustration for Trump. The billionaire executive owns The Washington Post newspaper, which Trump regularly criticizes for its coverage of his administration.
Trump also has gone after Amazon repeatedly for, as he claims, not paying its fair share of taxes and ripping off the U.S. Post Office.
In December, Amazon’s AWS chief, Andy Jassy, told CNBC that the cloud contracting was not adjudicated fairly.
“You know, there was significant political interference here,” Jassy explained of the JEDI award.
“When you have a sitting president who’s willing to be very vocal that they dislike a company and the CEO of that company, it makes it difficult for government agencies, including the DoD to make objective decisions without fear of reprisal. And I think that’s dangerous and risky for our country,” he told CNBC’s Jon Fortt.
— Annie Palmer contributed to this report from CNBC’s global headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.
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