Amazon asks court to block US/Microsoft contract because of Trump interference
Amazon is seeking a court order that would prevent Microsoft from doing work for the US Department of Defense under a contract that Amazon says was awarded improperly.
As previously reported, Amazon sued the Trump administration in the US Court of Federal Claims, claiming that Microsoft’s Azure cloud service won the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract because of “improper pressure from President Donald J. Trump.”
Amazon alleges that the president “launched repeated public and behind-the-scenes attacks to steer the JEDI Contract away from AWS [Amazon Web Services] to harm his perceived political enemy—Jeffrey P. Bezos,” the founder and CEO of Amazon and owner of The Washington Post.
Amazon and the US have agreed to an expedited briefing schedule, in part to consider a motion for a restraining order or preliminary injunction that Amazon intends to file. A joint status report filed in court yesterday by Amazon, the US government, and Microsoft described what’s happening next in the case:
AWS intends to file a motion for temporary restraining order and/or preliminary injunction to prevent the issuance of substantive task orders under the contract, which the United States has previously advised AWS and the Court will begin on February 11, 2020, given the United States’ consistent position that the services to be procured under the Contract are urgently needed in support of national security. The parties have agreed to an expedited briefing schedule on the issue of preliminary injunctive relief, and respectfully request that the Court expedite consideration of the issue, as described below.
Amazon intends to file the motion for a preliminary injunction or restraining order by January 24. The parties asked the court to issue a decision on Amazon’s motion by February 11.
Additionally, both the US and Microsoft “intend to file partial motions to dismiss” the case, the status report said. A briefing schedule proposed in the joint status report would have Amazon file its response to the motions to dismiss by February 21. The US and Microsoft would then have until March 6 to file their replies.
The status report also says that the US government “does not intend to file an answer to AWS’s complaint.” Instead, “the parties will file cross-motions for judgment on the administrative record.”
Trump impact on $10 billion contract
As we previously wrote, Microsoft’s contract “is for a DOD-wide enterprise Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) and Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) program providing compute and storage services—including delivering them to the ‘tactical edge,’ giving troops in the field access to critical data.” The contract was awarded to Microsoft in October and could be worth up to $10 billion over 10 years.
As the JEDI procurement process continued, President Trump’s anti-Amazon rhetoric grew more strident, and his directives more overt and clear, both publicly and behind the scenes. In the summer of 2018, President Trump ordered then-Secretary James Mattis to “screw Amazon” out of the JEDI Contract opportunity. Contrary to that order, Secretary Mattis demurred, later explaining to his team that he wanted the process to be “done by the book, both legally and ethically.” Less than half a year later, Secretary Mattis left his post as Secretary of Defense, with the President claiming that he had fired him, another in an ongoing series of exits from the Trump Administration for individuals who have refused to unquestioningly follow all of the President’s directives.
Later, Trump “escalated his intervention, jettisoning any appearance of impartiality by making clear to DoD (and to the world) that he did not want AWS to get the JEDI Contract,” the lawsuit said. For example, Trump said in a July 2019 press conference that “he was looking ‘very seriously’ into the JEDI procurement process (which he mistakenly referred to as ‘The Amazon’ process) and that he would ‘be asking [DoD] to look at it very closely’ because of ‘tremendous complaints about the contract with the Pentagon and with Amazon,'” the complaint said.