Commentary

Judge Grants Amazon's Request For Microsoft To Stop Work On DOD Contract

At Amazon’s request, a federal judge has temporarily halted Microsoft’s implementation of the $10-billion, cloud-based Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) program that aims to modernize the Department of Defense’s technical infrastructure. Amazon maintains that President Donald Trump personally intervened in the awarding of the contract because of his animosity toward the company and its founder, Jeff Bezos.

“The contents of the decision, issued Thursday by Judge Patricia Campbell-Smith  in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, remains under seal. But the order increases the pressure on the U.S. government as it defends against a formal protest filed by Amazon Web Services over its handling of the contract process,” CNN’s Brian Fung reports.

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“Earlier this week, Amazon asked the court for permission to gather testimony from President Donald Trump, defense secretary Mark Esper and former defense secretary James Mattis. A decision is expected on that request within weeks,” Fung reminds us.

“It’s unclear why the documents were sealed,” writes  CNBC’s Annie Palmer, who broke the news about yesterday’s action.

“Amazon’s cloud-computing arm, Amazon Web Services, is instructed to earmark $42 million for any ‘costs and damages’ that could be incurred in the event that the ‘injunction was issued wrongfully,’ the filing states. Amazon must file a notice with the courts indicating it has obtained the $42 million by Feb. 20. Microsoft and Amazon must respond to the filing by Feb. 27,” Palmer writes.

“Amazon, which had been seen as a front-runner to win the contract, filed a lawsuit in November just weeks after the contract was awarded to Microsoft…. The Amazon lawsuit said the Defense Department’s decision was full of ‘egregious errors,’ which were a result of ‘improper pressure from President Donald Trump, who launched repeated public and behind-the-scenes attacks’ to steer the contract away from Amazon ‘to harm his perceived political enemy,’ Bezos," write  Reuters’ David Shepardson and  Nandita Bose.

“When Microsoft was awarded the contract, the Defense Department was explicit that the bidding process had been correctly executed. ‘The acquisition process was conducted in accordance with applicable laws and regulations,’ it said at the time. ‘All offerors were treated fairly and evaluated consistently with the solicitation’s stated evaluation criteria,’” Kate Conger reports  for The New York Times.

“In public, Mr. Trump has said there were other ‘great companies’ that should have a chance at the contract. But a speechwriter for former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said in a recent book that Mr. Trump had wanted to foil Amazon and give the contract to another company,” Conger adds.

“The order comes just one day before the Defense Department had planned to ‘go live’ with what it has long argued is a crucial national defense priority. A Defense Department spokeswoman said the litigation will hurt U.S. troops,” Aaron Gregg reports  for The Washington Post.

“‘We are disappointed in today’s ruling and believe the actions taken in this litigation have unnecessarily delayed implementing DoD’s modernization strategy and put our nation’s warfighters in harm’s way,’ Rachel VanJohnson, a spokeswoman for the Pentagon’s cloud computing program office, said in a statement. ‘However, we are confident in our award of the JEDI Cloud contract to Microsoft and remain focused on getting this critical capability into the hands of our warfighters as quickly and efficiently as possible,’” Gregg writes.

Bezos owns The Washington Post. Trump has “raged” about that paper’s coverage of him since 2015, Jonathan Chiat pointed out  in an “Intelligencer” column for New York when the lawsuit first came to light.  

“The story here is almost certainly a massive scandal, probably more significant than the Ukraine scandal that spurred impeachment proceedings. Trump improperly used government policy to punish the owner of an independent newspaper as retribution for critical coverage. It resembles the Ukraine scandal because it is a flagrant abuse of power, and has been hiding in plain sight for months … The scale of the abuse, though, is far more serious, because it is a concrete manifestation of Trump’s authoritarian ambitions,” Chiat wrote.

That was before some more recent developments, such as Trump being accused yesterday of attempting to “‘Extort’ NY Governor in Plain Sight,” as the headline over Jerry Lambe’s story for Law&Crime puts it. Or Trump’s tweeted criticism of federal prosecutors’ original sentence recommendations for his pal Roger Stone, who was found guilty of witness tampering and lying to Congress, as The Washington Post’s Amber Phillips recounts.

And who knows what this long weekend will produce? Enjoy your Presidents' Day and we’ll see you Tuesday.

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