Amazon points to Trump comments in formal JEDI protest filing

By Justin Doubleday / November 25, 2019 at 11:48 AM

Amazon Web Services is highlighting comments made by President Trump about Amazon and its chief executive Jeff Bezos in new exhibits filed alongside its formal bid protest of the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud services contract.

Amazon’s formal complaint filed in the Court of Federal Claims on Friday is under seal, but in a related notice, the company points to four videos to supplement its case challenging the Pentagon's decision to award the JEDI contract to Microsoft Azure last month. The potential 10-year, $10 billion JEDI contract is intended to fulfill the Defense Department's requirement for a "general-purpose" cloud computing service.

The first video referenced by Amazon's lawsuit points to Trump’s remarks during a February 2016 campaign rally in Fort Worth, TX. During that event, Trump railed about "the media being among the most dishonest groups of people I’ve ever met" before specifically focusing on Bezos and Amazon.

"I have respect for Jeff Bezos, but he bought The Washington Post to have political influence and I got to tell you, we have a different country than we used to have," Trump said. "He owns Amazon. He wants political influence so that Amazon will benefit from it. That's not right. And believe me, if I become president, oh, do they have problems. They're going to have such problems."

The second video referenced by Amazon centers on more recent comments made by Trump this past July. During a July 18 meeting at the White House with the prime minister of the Netherlands, Trump was asked about the JEDI contract. At that time, a federal judge had just rejected Oracle America's lawsuit against the JEDI contract, allowing the Pentagon to move forward with the award to the recently narrowed field of either Amazon or Microsoft.

"I'm getting tremendous complaints about the contract with the Pentagon and with Amazon," Trump said. "They're saying it wasn't competitively bid. This is going on for a long time, I guess probably before this administration, and we're looking at it very seriously."

"I will be asking them to look at it very closely to see what's going on, because I have had very few things where there's been such complaining," he added. "Not only complaining from the media or at least asking questions about it, but complaining from different companies, like Microsoft and Oracle and IBM."

Just weeks after those comments, newly minted Defense Secretary Mark Esper launched a review of the JEDI program, although he said he wasn't pressured by Trump or the White House to do so. The review delayed the award, and Esper then recused himself from any JEDI decisions due to his son's employment with IBM.

On Oct. 25, the Pentagon announced Microsoft as the surprise winner of the JEDI contract.

The third video highlighted by Amazon's lawsuit references DOD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy's remarks during his Oct. 29 Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing. Deasy faced questions about the recently awarded contract and the president's potential involvement.

"Can you categorically assure us that there was no influence by the White House or the president on the ultimate disposition of this contract?" Sen. Angus King (I-ME) asked.

"The way we organized the team kept the anonymity of the team, the compartmentalization of the team, that I feel very confident that at no time were team members who actually took the source selection were influenced by anyone external, including the White House," Deasy responded.

The fourth video submitted by Amazon as part of its case points to a July 21 Fox News segment called "Swamp Watch." The five-minute video features Fox News host Steve Hilton discussing the JEDI contract, referring to it as the "Bezos bailout" and highlighting, among other criticisms, Oracle's allegations that DOD employees tailored the JEDI award for Amazon before leaving the department to join the company.

"It's not just appropriate but vital that the president kills this contract," Hilton said.