The intentionally public feud between two powerful and deeply unlikeable men continues—this time over a lucrative government contract which was awarded to Amazon rival Microsoft in October. Who will win, and can it please be neither of them?
The contract in question, Joint Enterprise Defence Infrastructure (JEDI), is more or less a Defence Department purchase order for $US10 ($15) billion worth of cloud computing power. With loot on the line and corporate ethics in question, the journey this far has been a rocky one.
Google dropped out of the running just weeks before the contract award announcement, while Microsoft workers protested potentially deeper ties to the Pentagon. Oracle, another JEDI hopeful, filed suit against Amazon claiming the process was biased. The fulcrum of that suit is a man named Deap Ubhi, a DoD official who, prior to and after the JEDI contract, held roles as Amazon Web Service.
Then, of course, is the protracted feud between Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos and U.S. President Donald Trump, which has since become a very useful arrow in the company’s quiver, following its failure to clinch JEDI. “President Trump’s bias against Jeffrey P. Bezos, founder of AWS’s parent company, Amazon.com, Inc. (“Amazon”), is a matter of public record,” a motion from the company, which was unsealed today, states. “Even before taking office, Trump campaigned on a promise that Amazon would “have problems” if he became President.”
Amazon first sued to contest the Defence Department’s JEDI decision in early November, again citing the president’s personal vendetta against Bezos, as well as his willingness to, as today’s motion succinctly states, “disrupt the orderly administration of government functions—including federal procurements—to advance personal motives.”
Does Amazon have a point? Absolutely. Trump has publicly attacked Bezos (on one occasion referring to him as “Jeff Bozo”) for Amazon’s parasitic relationship with the U.S. Postal Service, the company’s habit of steamrolling brick-and-mortar businesses, and its success at avoiding taxes—though his favourite ax to grind is with Bezos-owned newspaper the Washington Post and its often critical coverage of the present catastrophic administration.
Most vividly, Trump allegedly told former Defence Secretary Jim Mattis to “screw Amazon” out of the deal, according to Mattis’s former speechwriter, Guy Snodgrass.
There’s something thrilling about watching the most politically powerful person and the richest person in the world spar in federal court over perceived personal insults. It’s mostly awful, and sickening, but the scale makes it exciting—like a plague or a Marvel crossover movie.
Trump isn’t the only individual Amazon seeks to depose over these “numerous and compounding prejudicial errors,” however; the filing also lists Mattis, as well as current Defence Secretary Mark Esper, DoD Chief Information Officer Dana Deasy, as well as members of the Source Selection Authority, Source Selection Advisory Council, and Source Selection Evaluation Board whose names are redacted in the unsealed filing.
That said, what is the likeliness that Trump will be required to testify and will actually comply with that order if so? Slim, and approaching zero. The guy’s disdain for process and rule of law are, in part, what he’s being accused of in ratfucking Amazon out of $US10 ($15) billion it absolutely does not need, and nothing suggests Trump’s proclivities will ever change.