Amazon Seeks to Question Trump -- WSJ
By John D. McKinnon and James V. Grimaldi
This article is being republished as part of our daily
reproduction of WSJ.com articles that also appeared in the U.S.
print edition of The Wall Street Journal (February 11, 2020).
WASHINGTON -- Amazon.com Inc. asked a judge to allow it to
depose President Trump in the company's legal battle to overturn a
Pentagon decision awarding a huge cloud-computing contract to rival
The Amazon motion, made public Monday, says that Mr. Trump's
bias against Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos "is a matter of
public record. Even before taking office, President Trump
campaigned on a promise that Amazon would 'have problems' if he
The White House didn't respond to requests for comment. The
Defense Department said it "remains confident in the JEDI award.
Our team's duty and sole focus must remain on equipping our
warfighters for an increasingly complex and challenging battlefield
The Pentagon previously has said the "selection decision was
made by an expert team of career public servants and military
officers from across the Department of Defense and in accordance
with DOD's normal source-selection process." The contract is valued
at as much as $10 billion over the next decade.
It isn't uncommon for litigants to seek to depose top government
officials including the president. But courts don't automatically
grant those requests, and it appeared likely the administration
would resist. Deposing a cabinet-level or higher federal official
in a civil suit is a comparatively rare event.
Amazon filed its suit in December in the U.S. Court of Federal
Claims in Washington, arguing that Mr. Trump exerted "improper
pressure" on the Pentagon to keep the deal, known as JEDI, from
going to Mr. Bezos. JEDI stands for Joint Enterprise Defense
In its newly disclosed motion, the e-commerce and
cloud-computing giant said Mr. Trump "made crystal clear -- both to
the public at large, and by clear implication to senior [Pentagon]
officials (including his political appointees) -- that he did not
want his administration to award the contract to [Amazon]."
Amazon also wants to question Defense Secretary Mark Esper and
former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis about the decision.
In its earlier statement, the Defense Department denied any
"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."
Microsoft also didn't immediately respond. It has previously
said: "We have confidence in the qualified staff at the Department
of Defense, and we believe the facts will show they ran a detailed,
thorough and fair process in determining the needs of the
warfighter were best met by Microsoft."
Amazon was long considered the favorite to win the JEDI
contract. The company's bid was clouded by conflict-of-interest
allegations, however, which remain under investigation by the
Pentagon's inspector general.
Several then-Pentagon officials had alleged financial ties to
Amazon. In January 2017, Pentagon official Deap Ubhi, who had
worked for Amazon, sent a tweet that read: "Once an Amazonian,
always an Amazonian."
While the Pentagon initially concluded that Mr. Ubhi's alleged
conflict didn't affect the integrity of the procurement process, it
nonetheless ruled in the end that Microsoft Corp. was more
qualified for the job.
Amazon contends that Pentagon officials made numerous missteps
in evaluating its application because of pressure from Mr.
The president on July 19 called for an investigation of the
Pentagon contract, before the award. "I'm getting tremendous
complaints about the contract with the Pentagon and Amazon," Mr.
Trump told reporters at the time. "I will be asking them to look
very closely to see what's going on." Mr. Trump also issued tweets
in which he complained about the process.
Amazon's complaint also cites a passage of a recent book by a
former speechwriter for Mr. Mattis. Author Guy Snodgrass says in
the book, "Holding the Line," that Mr. Trump directed Mr. Mattis to
"screw Amazon" out of the JEDI contract by blocking its chance to
bid on the JEDI deal. "Mattis demurred," he added.
Mr. Trump has blamed Mr. Bezos for unfavorable coverage of his
administration in the Washington Post, which Mr. Bezos bought in
2013 for $250 million. The Post says its editorial decisions are
Write to John D. McKinnon at email@example.com
(END) Dow Jones Newswires
February 11, 2020 02:47 ET (07:47 GMT)
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