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Amazon says Donald Trump sidestepped contract rules to block $10 billion Pentagon bid

New court documents outline Amazon’s case

Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

In court documents released today, Amazon has formally outlined why it’s challenging the government’s decision to award a $10 billion Pentagon contract to rival Microsoft. The filings make clear that Amazon’s case will focus largely on one person: President Donald Trump.

Over the past year, the Pentagon has been accepting bids for its massive Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract. The winning company has been set to receive $10 billion to modernize the Defense Department’s digital infrastructure, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) has been seen as a front-runner. But last month, the award instead went to Microsoft, leading Amazon to ask a court to step in.

Trump’s influence has been seen in the deal, as reports have emerged of Trump telling his former secretary of defense to “screw Amazon” out of the contract. The president has repeatedly made clear he holds a deep grudge toward the company and CEO Jeff Bezos.

The Amazon filing released today, a 103-page redacted complaint, makes clear that Amazon believes Trump’s involvement was central to the government’s decision. The Defense Department, Amazon argues, “departed from the rules of procurement and complied — consciously or subconsciously — with its Commander in Chief’s expressed desire to reject AWS’s superior bid.”

The complaint argues that the Defense Department made “obvious errors” in its decision to give Microsoft the contract, and it points to reports that Trump has been “obsessed” with Bezos. The company also notes comments Trump made earlier this year when he said he had heard “tremendous complaints about the contract with the Pentagon and with Amazon” and would ask the Defense Department to look “very closely” at the contract.

According to Amazon’s complaint, the Defense Department made a series of changes to its contract request “at the eleventh hour.” Those changes, including new classification requirements, drove up the company’s bid. Amazon argues the changes were a pretense to block the company from the award.

“President Trump’s intervention casts the errors discussed above in an even harsher light and puts the very integrity of the government procurement process in question,” the complaint reads.