Amazon lawsuit alleging Trump bias in $10 billion military contract clears another hurdle

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An ongoing lawsuit pursued by Amazon against the US government and Microsoft will continue after a federal judge rejected a motion to dismiss the case. The suit concerns Microsoft’s success in securing the $10 billion JEDI cloud computing contract with the Defense Department — a decision that Amazon says was influenced by President Donald Trump’s dislike of the company and its CEO Jeff Bezos.

The decision, as reported by The Washington Post and Bloomberg News, means Amazon can now argue in front of a court that Trump himself and former defense secretary Jim Mattis should testify. A motion to dismiss the case was rejected by Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith on Wednesday April 28, though her full opinion was filed under seal.

Amazon and Microsoft are both industry leaders in the cloud computing market, but Amazon was seen as having the edge over its rival in securing the JEDI contract. When Microsoft was announced as the winner in October 2019, Amazon quickly objected, accusing President Trump of putting pressure on the government to pick Microsoft.

President Trump shakes hands with Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella in 2017 as Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos looks on.
Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

There’s ample evidence of Trump’s dislike of both Amazon and Bezos, especially after Bezos’ purchase of The Washington Post, which Trump claimed pursued a political agenda against him in its reporting. Evidence of Trump’s influence includes reports that he directly told Mattis to “screw Amazon” out of the $10 billion contract. (Mattis reportedly responded: “We’re not going to do that. This will be done by the book, both legally and ethically.”)

Responding to the news, Microsoft said it would make no difference. “This procedural ruling changes little. Not once, but twice, professional procurement staff at the DoD chose Microsoft after a thorough review,” said Microsoft’s communications head Frank Shaw in a statement. “Many other large and sophisticated customers make the same choice every week.”

Amazon applauded the decision, with Drew Herdener, vice president of communications, noting that there was a “disturbing” record of Trump improperly wielding his influence. “We continue to look forward to the Court’s review of the many material flaws in the DoD’s evaluation, and we remain absolutely committed to ensuring that the Department has access to the best technology at the best price,” wrote Herdener.

Although the case is a long way from being settled, it’s possible that the mere threat of a drawn-out court battle will change the outcome. In a memo from January, the Defense Department hinted as much. “The prospect of such a lengthy litigation process might bring the future of the JEDI Cloud procurement into question,” said the department.

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