April 16, 2020

The Pentagon inspector general's office said in a report Wednesday that it found no evidence of decisive irregularities in the Defense Department's decision to award a $10 billion Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure cloud contract to Microsoft over Amazon Web Services last October. But the inspector general investigation "could not definitively determine the full extent or nature" of White House input into the decision, because seven senior Pentagon officials, including Defense Secretary Mark Esper, had asserted "a 'presidential communications privilege'" and refused to hand over White House communications, the report found.

After the Pentagon awarded the contract to Microsoft, Amazon — seen as the favorite going in — sued in federal court, accusing President Trump or his aides of improperly weighing in to steer the contract away from Amazon because Trump doesn't like CEO Jeff Bezos. The report said auditors "could not be certain whether there were any White House communications with some DoD officials which may have affected the JEDI procurement," though they also did not find any positive evidence of White House interference.

Among the dozens of people the inspector general's office interviewed was former Defense Secretary James Mattis. Asked about a former staff member's written recollection that Trump told Mattis to "screw Amazon" out of the JEDI contract, Mattis said he "cannot confirm" the account or "recall the president's words on this (JEDI)."

A Pentagon spokesman said the 300-page IG report "should finally close the door on the media and corporate-driven attacks on the career procurement officials." Sen. Jack Reed (R.I.), the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called the report "troubling and incomplete" and said it "offers yet another example of the president’s efforts to inappropriately pressure federal agencies." Amazon's case is ongoing in court. Peter Weber

November 12, 2019

President Trump's Mueller testimony may not have been all it was written up to be.

The trial of Roger Stone, a Trump associate indicted under Special Counsel Robert Mueller, continued Tuesday with testimony from also indicted ex-Trump campaign official Rick Gates. Gates testified he'd heard Stone tell Trump about the WikiLeaks release of hacked DNC emails before the dump happened — a direct contradiction of what Trump told Mueller in his written testimony, The Washington Post reports.

Gates has cooperated with the Mueller probe's legal fallouts since pleading guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI in 2018, and Stone is currently facing trial regarding his ties to WikiLeaks and the Trump campaign. In his Tuesday testimony, Gates described how he'd seen Trump get a phone call from Stone in summer 2016, and after Trump hung up, told Gates "more information would coming" regarding WikiLeaks, per CNBC. In his written testimony for Mueller's probe last year, Trump contradictorily said he didn't recall hearing about the WikiLeaks dumps in advance or even discussing WikiLeaks with Stone, and that he wasn't aware of anyone on his staff knowing about them either.

Gates testified he didn't hear exactly what was said on the call, but said Trump campaign officials still held "brainstorming sessions" on what they'd do with a favorable WikiLeaks dump, The Wall Street Journal reports from the trial. And after the emails came out, Gates said Trump campaign officials were "in disbelief" and saw it as "a gift." That was apparently enough for government prosecutors, who rested their case after Gates' testimony without Stone ever appearing on the stand. Kathryn Krawczyk

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