Why Amazon wants to depose President Trump about cloud computing

February 11, 2020, 12:38 AM UTC

Amazon believes President Trump is key to understanding why it lost a Defense Department contract that is worth up to $10 billion.

In legal documents filed in January but unsealed on Monday, the retail-giant’s cloud computing arm, Amazon Web Services, revealed that it’s seeking to depose President Trump and six other individuals about the hotly contested Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract. The Pentagon handed Microsoft the coveted cloud computing contract in October, a surprise to many technology analysts who had considered Amazon to be the favorite.

The new publicly available filings mark yet another development in Amazon’s quest to challenge the Defense Department’s bidding process and potentially overturn the agency’s selection of Microsoft as the cloud contract winner. 

Why does Amazon want to depose President Trump?

Amazon has previously complained that President Trump’s public animosity toward the company and its CEO, Jeff Bezos, had biased the bidding process for the JEDI contract. Trump has publicly sparred with Amazon and its founder. For instance, in 2018 and again in 2019 Trump tweeted that the Bezos-owned Washington Post should register as a “lobbyist” because he claimed that the newspaper is slanted against him in its coverage.

In its legal filings, Amazon noted several instances of Trump’s public attacks on Bezos and Amazon, and claimed that Trump directed the Defense Department to probe the JEDI procurement process after he had publicly stated that he heard “tremendous…complaints” about AWS. Amazon then alleged that after Secretary of Defense Mark Esper began an “examination” of the JEDI bidding process, “DoD evaluators’ reports shifted in favor of Microsoft and against AWS.”

In explaining its desire to depose Trump, Amazon noted circumstantial evidence that Trump may be biased against the company and then said that he “has unique knowledge about the totality of his conversations and the overall message he conveyed.” 

“Accordingly, AWS seeks discovery and supplementation that are narrowly tailored to include the public record of bias and to develop facts not currently known or accessible to AWS demonstrating exactly how President Trump’s order to ‘screw Amazon’ was carried out during the decision-making process,” Amazon’s legal filings said.

Still, it seems unlikely that Trump will be deposed, George Washington University law expert Steve Schooner, who specializes in government procurement, told the Associated Press. Schooner said that the while Trump’s deposition would be “clearly relevant,” he “can’t imagine this president sitting for that deposition.”

Who else does Amazon want to despose?

The cloud computing giant also wants six other people to discuss the inner workings of the JEDI bidding process. Secretary of Defense James Mattis, for instance, “has highly relevant, first-hand knowledge about President Trump’s animus towards Mr. Bezos and Amazon,” Amazon said. Other individuals that Amazon wants to hear from include Esper, Defense Department chief information officer Dana Deasy, and three others whose names have been redacted. 

Why is Amazon continuing to question the JEDI bidding process?

The JEDI contract is significant for a number of reasons besides being worth billions of dollars. Landing a 10-year contract could pave the way for Amazon to win lucrative cloud computing contracts with other government agencies.

Winning a Defense Department contract is considered particularly prestigious for tech giants like Amazon and Microsoft because of advanced technology that the agency uses, including for combat. The perception of being the most tech-savvy and reliable could also lead to additional corporate customers.

In a statement to Fortune, Amazon said, “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 company added, “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.”

The White House did not respond to emailed requests for comment. A Defense Department spokesperson told Fortune in an email that, the department “strongly opposes the Amazon Web Services request to depose senior DoD leaders.”

“The request is unnecessary, burdensome and merely seeks to delay getting this important technology into the hands of our warfighters,” the spokesperson added.

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