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Army to consider returning award to Matthew Golsteyn, soldier pardoned by Trump

2020-01-09 17:58:26

WASHINGTON – The Army late Thursday announced it will consider returning an award for valor and special forces membership to a soldier charged with murder and pardoned by President Donald Trump.

It’s another sign of how the Pentagon has been upended by the president’s intervention in cases against three service members accused of war crimes.

In a statement, the Army announced that on Dec. 3 it denied retired Maj. Matthew Golsteyn’s request for reinstatement of his membership to special forces.

The Army’s Board for Correction of Military Records will now consider Golsteyn’s request for reinstatement of the Special Forces Tab and the approval of the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest medal for valor, according to an Army statement.

Trump’s pardons of Golsteyn and Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, and his reversal of a demotion for Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher, have shaken the military criminal justice system and roiled the Pentagon’s senior leadership. Their cases had been championed by conservative media outlets and found favor with Trump. 

Timeline: How Trump intervened in Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher’s war crimes case

Golsteyn, a Green Beret, was charged with executing a suspected bomb maker who had been ordered to be released after questioning in Afghanistan in 2010. Trump’s pardon canceled a court-martial trial for Golsteyn scheduled for last month.

Golsteyn admitted during a polygraph test, taken when he tried to join the CIA, that he had killed the man. That launched an Army investigation that culminated in the murder charge.

The Army investigation determined that Golsteyn and other soldiers buried the corpse, dug it up and burned it, according to documents obtained by The Washington Post.

Golsteyn said he shot the man because he was certain his bomb-making would “continue to threaten American troops and their Afghan partners,” according to the White House. Trump, in a tweet last year, referred to Golsteyn as a “U.S. military hero.”

Golsteyn, like Gallagher, wanted the insignia of his membership in special operations forces to be restored after he was pardoned. He also sought the return of a Silver Star medal, which had been approved for an upgrade to the Distinguished Service Cross.

The Army stripped Golsteyn of his prestigious Army Special Forces tab and the medal in 2014, after it investigated his actions in combat.

Gallagher was convicted of posing with the corpse of an ISIS fighter but acquitted of charges of murder and attempted murder.

In November the Navy canceled a hearing that would have banished Gallagher from the SEALs after Trump ordered Defense Secretary Mark Esper to leave Gallagher alone.

Esper fired Navy Secretary Richard Spencer after Spencer sought to negotiate a deal to allow Gallagher to keep his coveted Trident pin that signifies membership in the elite SEAL unit. 

Read the letter: Richard Spencer’s scathing final letter as Navy secretary

Eddie Gallagher: Trump’s advocacy for Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher is latest intervention for conservative cause celebre

Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher walks into military court in San Diego, California, June 21, 2019.
Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher walks into military court in San Diego, California, June 21, 2019.

In a letter acknowledging his firing, however, Spencer rebuked Trump, who he said did not share his values of military justice and discipline. Spencer said he had been given an order that he could not in “good conscience obey.”

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.

Trump brought Golsteyn and Lorance to a GOP fundraiser outside Miami in November, according to a Republican who attended the fundraiser and requested anonymity to discuss the details of an event that was closed to reporters.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Army to review record of Matthew Golsteyn after Trump pardon


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