Trump's White House stonewalled IG probe of alleged improper pressure in a lucrative defense contract

Trump's White House stonewalled IG probe of alleged improper pressure in a lucrative defense contract
President Donald J. Trump, joined by Vice President Mike Pence, meets with patients Tuesday, April 14, 2020, who have recovered from the COVID-19 Coronavirus, in the Cabinet Room of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Two major tech companies headquartered in Washington State, Microsoft and Amazon, competed for the Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) contract — which the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) ultimately gave to Microsoft. This week, the Pentagon’s inspector general released a report concluding that the decision was “consistent with applicable law” and there was no impropriety on the part of the Defense Department. But the Pentagon inspector general, according to Law & Crime reporter Jerry Lambe, was “unable to determine” whether or not the Trump White House tried to improperly influence that decision.

In a 313-page report, the Pentagon inspector general’s office explained, “We sought to review whether there was any White House influence on the JEDI cloud procurement. We could not review this matter fully because of the assertion of a ‘presidential communications privilege,’ which resulted in several DoD witnesses being instructed by the DoD Office of General Counsel not to answer our questions about potential communications between White House and DoD officials about JEDI.”

The report added, “Therefore, we could not definitively determine the full extent or nature of interactions that administration officials had, or may have had, with senior DoD officials regarding the JEDI Cloud procurement.”

On Twitter, Jonathan Rath Hoffman (assistant to the secretary of defense for public affairs) addressed the matter and posted, “We can do this again: ‘DoD OGC stated that White House Counsel was willing to allow witnesses to provide written answers to our questions where the presidential communication privilege was invoked.’ They choose not to take the answers. Regardless, the IG found no influence.”

But Walter Shaub, former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, saw Hoffman’s tweet and responded, “This, of course, is not how Inspector General investigations work — as this DoD spokesperson well knows. The IG decides how and when to collect evidence in a corruption investigation. Instead, we have White House interference in an investigation of…. White House interference.”

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has accused President Donald Trump of waging a “personal vendetta” against him and alleged that he did everything he could to make sure Amazon wasn’t awarded the JEDI contract. There has been very bad blood between Trump and Bezos, who owns the Washington Post — a publication that Trump absolutely despises. And many of the Post’s opinion columnists have been highly critical of Trump, from liberal journalist Eugene Robinson to Never Trump conservatives such as George Will, Jennifer Rubin, Kathleen Parker and Max Boot.

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