WASHINGTON – The Army has rejected an enchantment to return medals for valor to retired Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, a Special Forces soldier former President Donald Trump pardoned for alleged murder in Afghanistan. It was one among three high-profile circumstances wherein Trump interceded on behalf of troops accused of battle crimes.
The choice relating to Golsteyn, reached final June, was not introduced by the Army in Trump’s ultimate months as president however is revealed in paperwork launched to USA TODAY. The Army additionally denied Golsteyn’s request to restore his Special Forces tab, marking his service as a member of an elite unit, and the letter of reprimand positioned in his personnel file.
A Green Beret, Golsteyn was charged with killing a suspected bomb maker who had been ordered launched after questioning in Afghanistan in 2010. Golsteyn admitted throughout an interview to be a part of the CIA that he had killed the person. That launched an Army investigation that culminated within the murder cost, however Trump’s pardon canceled his court docket martial.
Golsteyn had appealed to the board in December 2019 to restore his Distinguished Service Cross, second solely to the Medal of Honor for valor in fight. Initially, Golsteyn had been awarded a Silver Star for heroism, but it surely had been upgraded after a overview.
Trump took up Golsteyn’s trigger and that of two different service members accused of battle crimes after their tales have been championed in conservative information media. Trumppardoned Golsteyn and Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, and reversed the demotion for Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher. Trump’s extraordinary intervention in navy justice circumstances created turmoil in Pentagon management, main to the firing of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer for interceding in Gallagher’s case.
The Army overview board’s choice on Golsteyn, obtained by a researcher and shared with USA TODAY, reveals that the panel denied all of his claims. The board cited a letter in his case from the Justice Department that Trump’s pardon didn’t wipe clear Golsteyn’s document.
The “Presidential pardon is a sign of forgiveness and ‘does not indicate innocence,’” the board wrote.
Army released report after Trump left office
Golsteyn, in a statement provided by his lawyer, blasted the Army for failing to follow Trump’s pledge to expunge his record and clear him of wrongdoing. Trump stated that repeatedly in a November 2019 phone call in which then-Vice President Pence and others took part, Golsteyn said.
“Clearly, we’ve seen navy departments obey the course of the Commander in Chief in different circumstances and, inexplicably, the Army defied the President,” Golsteyn said. “It should not be a shock the findings of the Army Board have been launched in November 2020 and never mailed to me for 2 extra months, after President Trump left workplace, so my case might languish within the quagmire of Presidential transition.”
Golsteyn’s lawyer, Phillip Stackhouse, called the board’s decision “foolish.” Trump’s pledge to leave Golsteyn with an unblemished record entitles him to receive his medals and Special Forces tab, Stackhouse said.
President Joe Biden should honor Trump’s commitment, Stackhouse said. Golsteyn has not yet decided whether he wants to appeal the decision to federal court, Stackhouse said.
The Army “could have dodged a bullet” by releasing the report after Trump left office, said Dwight Mears, the researcher and author who obtained the record.
“Certainly, the Army had an incentive to keep away from antagonizing the president right here,” said Mears, a West Point graduate and former history professor at the military academy. “It’s actually attainable Trump might have tried to overrule the (board), which might be the worst-case state of affairs for the Army. He might theoretically have ordered them to rule otherwise, as they’re all authorities workers.”
Golsteyn’s name is redacted in the board’s decision. But the facts and issues cited make clear that he is the subject of their deliberation and his lawyer acknowledged the document’s authenticity.
The report cites a letter from the CIA to the Pentagon in 2011, acknowledging that Golsteyn admitted killing the unarmed Afghan man.
Golsteyn was a captain in the 3rd Special Forces Group – Airborne in February 2010 when he reported shooting an unarmed Afghan man, the board’s report states. The man had been questioned after the explosion of an improvised explosive device. Golsteyn shot the man, he said, over concern for lives of a local tribal leader’s family and U.S. troops.
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“Subject suggested he elected to terminate the lifetime of the unarmed combatant as a result of he knew that getting proof so as to convict this particular person of the detonation can be ‘arduous to get,'” according to the report. Golsteyn admitted that he and another member of the unit disposed of the man’s body.
The commander of Special Forces Command – Airborne reprimanded Golsteyn, citing his admission of violating the laws of war.
“Your habits on this matter manifests a whole lack of judgment and accountability …You have discredited your self, (Army Special Operations) and the U.S. Army.”
In a tweet in 2019, Trump called Golsteyn a “U.S. navy hero.”
Trump also granted a pardon to Lorance, who had been serving a 19-year sentence for ordering soldiers to fire on unarmed Afghan civilians. Two of them were killed. Gallagher was convicted of posing with the corpse of an ISIS fighter but acquitted of charges of murder and attempted murder.
This article initially appeared on USA TODAY: Army denies medals to soldier Trump pardoned for alleged Afghan murder