AWS Wants To Depose President Trump In JEDI Cloud Lawsuit
In its protest charging political interference corrupted the process of choosing the military’s cloud contractor, Amazon Web Services is asking a federal court to order a president who once reportedly told his defense secretary to “screw Amazon” to answer questions.
Amazon Web Services has asked a federal court to order President Donald Trump and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to sit for questions about potential political interference corrupting the process of selecting a commercial cloud vendor for the military’s JEDI initiative, according to court filings unsealed Monday.
The public cloud leader that lost the potentially $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure contract to Microsoft last year wants to ask Trump in a deposition about his reported statement to former Defense Secretary James Mattis to “screw Amazon” out of JEDI.
“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,” an AWS spokesperson said.
[Related: AWS Launches JEDI Cloud Counteroffensive]
“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.’”
Amazon’s lawsuit, filed last November in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, contends that Trump’s animosity against Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos swayed JEDI source selection and created an evaluation process riddled with errors that should be interpreted as evidence of political interference.
The case cites multiple instances in which Trump, first as a candidate and then as the occupant of the White House, openly expressed anger at Amazon stemming from Bezos ownership of the Washington Post, a newspaper that critically covered the president. Bezos became Trump's "perceived political enemy," the complaint reads.
While Trump’s statements have created a clear record of bias, Amazon argues, the official administrative record presented by the government in the case does not touch upon any of those issues.
“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,” the Amazon spokesperson said.
Amazon also wants to depose Mattis, who stirred controversy early in the procurement with a trip to Amazon’s Seattle headquarters during which he met with Bezos.
As to Esper, Amazon wants to depose him about a review he ordered last summer that stalled the process just as the industry expected a cloud vendor to be announced—two weeks after Trump first referenced JEDI and noted that AWS rivals were complaining about the process.
During a second review Trump insisted the Defense Department conduct in September, Esper recused himself from the evaluation, citing a professional relationship his son had with IBM, one of the initial JEDI bidders that had already been knocked out of contention.
While the legal challenge plays out, AWS wants the court to block Microsoft from beginning to implement the contract. AWS wants the court to ultimately restart the source selection process in a manner free of political influence, the company said.
During the RFP phase, AWS, the market leader, was widely considered the front-runner in the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure initiative.
As that process played out, AWS fought a lawsuit that Oracle brought against the federal government.
Oracle argued that several Pentagon officials who shaped the JEDI criteria had conflicts of interest in favor of Amazon, prompting AWS to voluntarily join the suit as a co-defendant.
JEDI began to take shape back in 2017, with the bidding process playing out throughout 2018 and the award announced in 2019.
Military leaders have been eager to begin implementation of the massive cloud transformation project after the multiple delays resulting from the previous legal and administrative challenges.
AWS argues a further delay would ensure the military purchases the best technology for its needs, and it would be consistent with the typical process when federal awards are challenged.
The Defense Department only said it would hold off the substantial implementation work with Microsoft until Feb. 11—a window that AWS argues doesn't provide nearly enough time for a satisfactory resolution in federal court.