Amazon Web Services has asked a federal court for permission to take testimony from President Donald Trump himself as part of its lawsuit over the Pentagon’s multibillion dollar JEDI Cloud contract.
According to court documents made public Monday morning, AWS is also seeking depositions from former Defense Secretary James Mattis, current Defense Secretary Mark Esper, DoD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy, and the source selection officials who ultimately decided to award the contract to Microsoft.
In the filing — first filed with the Court of Federal Claims under seal on Jan. 17 — the company says the depositions are necessary to help support its claims that Trump exerted political influence over the award because of his alleged bias against Amazon and its founder Jeff Bezos. It also makes numerous requests for documents from the Defense Department.
Amazon’s attorneys wrote that it would be impossible for the court to fully consider its allegations of “bias and bad faith” without the additional evidence it believes deposition and document requests would uncover.
“The clear, public record of the commander-in-chief’s personal animus toward Amazon and Mr. Bezos, his campaign pledge to ensure that Amazon would ‘have problems’ if he became president, and his unprecedented interference in the JEDI award process with the DoD leadership team all demand that DoD’s errors be assessed in light of a full record of that bias and pressure,” the company alleged in Monday’s filing. “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.”
The Defense Department has maintained that the JEDI award process could not have been affected by political considerations, partly because the identities of the source selection team were kept secret from anyone who could have attempted to influence the final outcome.
Amazon attorneys pointed out that there is a clear precedent for taking depositions from a sitting president as part of a civil suit, citing the Supreme Court’s 1997 decision in Paula Jones’ lawsuit against President Clinton.
“AWS acknowledges that there are sensitivities with deposing President Trump,” they wrote. “AWS will work with the court and the Department of Justice to develop appropriate protocols and safeguards, including to evaluate alternative methods, to ensure that the testimony is procured in a manner sensitive to the unique position of the Executive Office of the President.”
According to court records, the government has already filed a response to Amazon’s motion requesting the depositions. However, that document has not yet been made public.
Besides oral testimony, AWS is also seeking numerous categories of documents from DoD, including any communications the White House and department leaders had about the JEDI contract prior to the award, all of DoD’s analyses of the Amazon and Microsoft proposals, and any communications source selection officials might have had with people who were not on the source selection board.
Also on Monday, Amazon filed a redacted version of its request for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction. If the court grants that motion, DoD and Microsoft’s work on JEDI would have to come to a halt while the underlying bid protest is adjudicated.
In that filing, AWS said it would suffer “irreparable harm” if DoD and Microsoft are allowed to start building the cloud infrastructure.
“DoD committed a host of egregious errors in the evaluation of the AWS and Microsoft proposals, leading DoD to award the JEDI Contract to Microsoft despite its inferior cloud solution and its defective proposed price,” lawyers wrote. “Allowing performance of the JEDI contract to continue while the court adjudicates this meritorious protest would unde1mine the integrity of the procurement system and waste taxpayer dollars. The public interest weighs in favor of injunctive relief to ensure the JEDI procurement is completed in accordance with law and regulation.”
Under a schedule already agreed to the court, Amazon, DoD and Microsoft, judge Patricia E Campbell-Smith is expected to rule on whether to issue the stop-work order by Thursday. If she does not, the Defense Department has said it plans to issue the first “substantive” JEDI task order to Microsoft on Friday.