Amazon Tells Court Trump Is to Blame for Pentagon Snub

President Donald Trump, left, and Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, center, listen as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaks during an American Technology Council roundtable in the State Dinning Room of the White House in Washington on June 19, 2017. In October, Amazon beat Microsoft for a $10 billion opportunity to build the U.S. military its first “war cloud.” (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

WASHINGTON (CN) — A month after Microsoft scored a $10 billion Pentagon contract, Amazon is contesting the award in court, saying President Donald Trump illegally steered the contract to hurt Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos.

Though dated Nov. 22, the 103-page complaint filed with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims was only unsealed Monday. Represented by the firm Morrison & Foerster, Amazon Web Services says it was the best choice for a contract known as JEDI, short for Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, by which the Defense Department aims to upgrade and consolidate its cloud-computing infrastructure across the agency.

Amazon has the advanced technology and a track record of handling sensitive government data, but the partially redacted complaint says Trump’s political whims took priority over these assets when the contract went to Microsoft in October.

“DoD’s substantial and pervasive errors are hard to understand and impossible to assess separate and apart from the president’s repeatedly expressed determination to, in the words of the president himself, ‘screw Amazon,’” the complaint reads. “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.”

Amazon argues that government agencies are not allowed to reshape evaluation criteria “to create false parity among the offerors, ignoring categorical differences between offerors, and making patent errors that mischaracterize one offeror’s solution to the benefit of another.”

Trump’s public airing of his private beef with Bezos is quoted extensively in the complaint, including one threat he made as a presidential candidate in 2016: “Believe me, if I become president, oh do they have problems,” Trump said of Amazon. “They’re going to have such problems.” 

Trump grew obsessed with the Washington Post owner as the months passed, the complaint alleges, quoting one source for Vanity Fair who described Trump as determined to “fuck with” Bezos because of his resentment surrounding his bad press. 

“Rarely, if ever, has a president engaged in such a blatant and sustained effort to direct the outcome of a government procurement-let alone because of personal animus and political objectives,” the complaint states. “Our laws reject this unfair influence and bias into the government procurement process, and this Court should not sanction such behavior or its intended result in this case.”

Defense Department spokeswoman Elissa Smith declined to comment on specific claims in the litigation but did say an expert team of career public servants and military decided the JEDI contract in accordance with the agency’s normal source-selection process. 

“There were no external influences on the source selection decision,” Smith said in an email Monday. “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 complaint requests a reevaluation of both Amazon and Microsoft’s proposals and a new award decision. Mullen did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment Monday.

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