Amazon is offering to help President Biden hasten distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, inviting questions about whether the offer was ever made to the Trump administration.
Amazon executive Dave Clark pitched the idea to Biden as soon as he took office in a Wednesday letter that also congratulated him on his inauguration.
“We are prepared to leverage our operations, IT, & communications capabilities and expertise to assist your administration’s vaccination efforts. Our scale allows us to make a meaningful impact immediately,” Clark wrote.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said at a Thursday afternoon briefing that “we’ve had a lot of outreach, some privately, some publicly from a range of businesses and private sector entities. And we certainly welcome that. And we’ll be considering all of those offers.”
A journalist pressed Psaki about the timing of Amazon’s offer, inquiring if the tech giant waited until after Trump left office as “a political call… while lives are hanging in the balance.
“I’m not aware of the timeline of when Amazon reached out. That sounds like a question for Amazon to me,” Psaki said.
Biden has made vaccine distribution one of his top priorities, vowing to distribute 100 million vaccine doses in his first 100 days. The rate would slightly exceed Trump’s final-week rate of 912,497 doses given per day.
Trump routinely attacked Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, who also owns the Washington Post, and called on the US Postal Service to charge Amazon more to deliver packages.
Clark, the Amazon executive who pitched Biden on the idea, was responsible for a December letter to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that sought help in gaining access to the vaccine for the company’s workers.
Clark wrote to Biden that Amazon’s help could be a game-changer.
“Our scale allows us to make a meaningful impact immediately in the fight against COVID-19, and we stand ready to assist you in this effort,” Clark wrote.
“Since the beginning of this crisis, we have worked hard to keep our workers safe. We are committed to assisting your administration’s vaccination efforts as we work together to protect our employees and continue to provide essential services during the pandemic.”
The e-commerce and cloud computing giant has one of the most sophisticated distribution and shipping operations in the country.
Bezos purchased the Washington Post in 2013 for $250 million. The newspaper had a fraught relationship with Trump, who called the paper “an expensive… lobbyist for Amazon.”
The Trump Justice Department probed Amazon over anti-trust concerns.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos.Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin defended the investigation in a 2019 CNBC appearance, arguing Amazon “has destroyed the retail industry across the United States.”
In a 2019 Medium post, Bezos defended his ownership of the paper, writing, “My ownership of the Washington Post is a complexifier for me. It’s unavoidable that certain powerful people who experience Washington Post news coverage will wrongly conclude I am their enemy.”
He added: “My stewardship of The Post and my support of its mission, which will remain unswerving, is something I will be most proud of when I’m 90 and reviewing my life, if I’m lucky enough to live that long, regardless of any complexities it creates for me.”
A representative for Amazon did not immediately respond to The Post’s request for comment on correspondence with the Trump administration and whether the company offered Trump support on vaccine distribution.
Reached by NBC News, an Amazon rep said the company had been “in touch” last month with the CDC, but would not say whether the company had made the same overtures to Trump.
In a tweet posted Thursday afternoon, Amazon’s public policy team defended their conduct, saying, “Actually, we didn’t wait.
“We offered the Trump administration assistance on vaccines, built new tools for researchers & public health authorities, engaged Operation Warp Speed on logistics & advised on testing, & flew in PPE from China when America needed it most.”