Speed Reads

Swampy if true

Trump is reportedly pressuring the Pentagon to give no-bid 5G spectrum contract to GOP-linked firm

President Trump has been ramping up pressure on the Defense Department to give what amounts to a no-bid contract for its valuable mid-band wireless spectrum to Rivada Networks, a company whose prominent investors include Fox News regular Karl Rove and Peter Thiel, Trump's biggest supporter in Silicon Valley, CNN reports. The 350 megahertz of spectrum, ideal for the nascent 5G market, is worth at least $10 billion. The pressure campaign to hand the contract to Rivada is getting pushback from the Pentagon and Federal Communications Commission, CNN says.

One senior administration official told CNN that giving the deal to Rivada would amount to "the biggest handoff of economic power to a single entity in history," and without the usual vetting of how it would affect national security. "Something is really fishy about this," a senior administration official said. In a research paper published Oct. 7, telecom industry analyst Craig Moffett said "the whole story smacks of cronyism at best and reeks of 'the swamp' at worst."

Rove, a prominent GOP strategist who is both an investor in and lobbyist for Rivada, has been among those pushing Trump for the no-bid contract, sources tell CNN. Rove told CNN he wants Rivada to win the contract on its merits. Trump ally Newt Gingrich told CNN he "never advocated for Rivada" specifically and has been urging the White House to open up Pentagon spectrum to 5G businesses "pro bono as a citizen."

Trump originally agreed with economic adviser Larry Kudlow that the mid-band spectrum should be auctioned off in a transparent and free market manner, but "something changed come election time," CNN reports, and "informed sources speculate that Trump may have been trying to curry favor with Rove, who has never been a reliable member of the MAGA team but remains a powerful fundraising force and strategist in GOP politics. A more benign interpretation," CNN notes, is that Trump is primarily "focused on having 5G networks spread as quickly and safely across the U.S." Read more at CNN.