Amazon asks to depose Trump in lawsuit challenging Pentagon’s award of major cloud contract to Microsoft

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AWS CEO Andy Jassy at the 2019 re:Invent conference in Las Vegas. (GeekWire Photo / Todd Bishop)

Amazon is asking a federal judge for permission to depose President Donald Trump and Defense Department officials to prove bias and personal animus led the Pentagon to award a lucrative cloud contract to rival Microsoft.

It’s an extraordinary escalation in a multi-year, high stakes quarrel between Amazon and the commander-in-chief. A $10 billion, 10-year contract to build the Pentagon’s war cloud hangs in the balance, as do the reputations of the top cloud computing companies.

Follow-up: Can Amazon really depose Trump? Explaining the tech giant’s rare legal move in $10B cloud dispute

Amazon asked for the depositions in new, partially redacted court filings. The documents, released Monday, also seek to depose former Defense Secretary James Mattis, current Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Dana Deasy, information chief at DoD, and others.

A spokesperson for Amazon Web Services, the company’s cloud arm, issued this statement Monday:

“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. 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.’ 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.”

Microsoft declined to comment on the latest filings.

The Defense Department awarded JEDI — a.k.a. the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure — project to Microsoft in November. It came as a surprise to many, as Amazon was long seen as the front-runner for the project. The Pentagon was expected to announce a winner over the summer, but the timeline was delayed after President Donald Trump expressed concerns about the fairness of the process.

Less than two weeks after Microsoft won the contract, Amazon filed its lawsuit. Amazon is asking the court to order the Defense Department to reevaluate the bids.

“I think if you do the truly objective and detailed apples-to-apples comparison of the platforms, you don’t end up in the spot where that decision was made,” said AWS CEO Andy Jassy at the 2019 re:Invent conference. “Most of our customers tell us that we’re a couple of years ahead, both with regard to functionality and maturity. And I think you end up with a situation where there’s a significant political interference.”

Trump’s public statements and tweets attacking Amazon and its founder, Jeff Bezos, are key to the company’s case against the federal government. Amazon submitted videos of Trump interviews, campaign speeches, and a Fox News segment in which the president questions the fairness of the JEDI project and pledges to make life difficult for the company.

Now Amazon is seeking to supplement the evidence record with depositions and details from private conversations within the Department of Defense.

“To effectively review AWS’s allegations of bias and bad faith, this Court must know ‘what actually transpired’ within DoD as a result of the President’s interference,” Amazon’s motion says.

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