WASHINGTON (CN) – A federal judge on Thursday blocked the Pentagon from going forward with a $10 billion contract for a military computing network while Amazon makes its case that President Donald Trump interfered to send the contract to Microsoft to harm Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos.
The sealed motion from Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith temporarily blocks the Pentagon from going forward with the contract while Amazon's challenge plays out in court. The fight is before the Court of Federal Claims, a special court in Washington, D.C., that hears suits against the government, particularly disputes over the award of federal contracts.
Amazon Web Services filed the suit in November, challenging the award of a contract to develop the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure, or JEDI, to Microsoft. The 103-page complaint claims that Amazon was the best company for the job, but that Trump stepped in to direct the contract to its top competitor out of personal animus towards Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post.
In seeking to block the contract from going forward while the case is litigated, Amazon argued that its claims are likely to succeed and that allowing Microsoft to start work would effectively prevent Amazon from being made whole if it does prevail.
"This is not the typical bid protest where a disappointed offeror complains about subjective judgments made by the government regarding the relative qualities of technical solutions," Amazon Web Services said in its memorandum in support of its motion for preliminary injunction. "Here, DoD placed its thumb firmly on the source selection scale and skewed the evaluation in Microsoft's favor."
Trump has long been critical of Bezos and his companies, particularly the Washington Post, which he sees as treating him unfairly. Amazon and Microsoft were the finalist candidates for the contract, which the Pentagon ultimately awarded to Microsoft in October after Trump said in July that he was "very seriously" looking at the contract following complaints about the award process and Amazon.
As is common for cases before the Court of Federal Claims, where decisions often hinge on sensitive business information, the parties will have until Feb. 27 to file proposed redactions to Campbell-Smith's sealed opinion before it becomes public.
Amazon Web Services is represented by Kevin Mullen of Morrison & Foerster. Mullen and Amazon Web Services did not immediately return requests for comment on the decision.
Lt. Col. Robert Carver, a spokesman for the Department of Defense, said the agency is disappointed with the setback but confident it will ultimately prevail in the case.
"We are disappointed in today's ruling and believe the actions taken in this litigation have unnecessarily delayed implementing DoD's modernization strategy and deprived our warfighters of a set of capabilities they urgently need," Carver said in a statement. "However, we are confident in our award of the JEDI Cloud contract to Microsoft and remain focused on getting this critical capability into the hands of our warfighters as quickly and efficiently as possible."
The Justice Department declined to comment on the ruling.
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