The US Army refused to return medals for valor to a former Green Beret who was charged with war crimes and later pardoned by President Donald Trump, unsealed documents have revealed.
Retired Maj. Matthew Golsteyn was stripped of his medals and his membership in the elite Green Berets after being with charged with premeditated murder in the 2010 shooting death of a suspected Taliban bombmaker in
The trial was canceled after Trump stepped in and pardoned Golsteyn by executive order in November 2019.
Golsteyn filed an appeal the following month to restore his Distinguished Service Cross, the military’s second-highest honor, as well as his Special Forces tab.
But documents obtained by
In a letter disclosing the decision the board cited a letter from the Justice Department which said Trump’s pardon did not fully exonerate Golsteyn.
‘Presidential pardon is a sign of forgiveness and does not indicate innocence,’ the board wrote.
The US Army refused to return medals for valor to Maj. Matthew Golsteyn (pictured), a former Green Beret who was charged with war crimes and later pardoned by President Donald Trump
Golsteyn was given a Special Forces designation and awarded a Silver Star back in 2011, after it was revealed he repeatedly braved enemy fire, coordinated airstrikes and came to the aid of a wounded Afghan soldier during his 2010 deployment to Afghanistan.
The Silver Star was upgraded to the Distinguished Service Cross before he was stripped of the medal in 2015 after he admitted to shooting an alleged Taliban bombmaker.
Golsteyn, who was leading a team of Army Special Forces troops at the time, was accused of shooting the Afghan man in February 2010.
The man had been detained and questioned over a bombing that killed two Marines – Sgt. Jeremy R McQueary and Lance Cpl. Larry M. Johnson – but he was later released because of lack of evidence.
Golsteyn later shot him because he believed he was the bombmaker.
He said he believed the bombmaker was a legal target because of his behavior.
President Donald Trump stepped in and pardoned Golsteyn by executive order in November 2019
Golsteyn confessed to the shooting during a polygraph test that he took for a job interview with the CIA in 2011.
The Army Criminal Investigation Command, acting on information from the CIA, looked into the incident but could never find anyone to corroborate Golsteyn’s claim.
Golsteyn appeared on a Fox News special called ‘How We Fight’ in 2016 during which he said he killed the Afghan because letting him go would have led to additional problems.
His appearance on the show caused the case against him to be reopened and he was charged with premeditated murder by the US military in 2018.
Golsteyn had been due to face a court-martial in December 2018 before the pardon came through from Trump.
Broadcasting his support for Golestyn, Trump tweeted: ‘Mathew is a highly decorated Green Beret who is being tried for killing a Taliban bombmaker.
‘We train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill!’
Golsteyn (pictured in Afghanistan in 2010) was stripped of his medals and his membership in the elite Green Berets after being charged with premeditated murder in 2015
Sgt. Jeremy R. McQueary (left), 27, and Lance Cpl. Larry M. Johnson (right), 19, were killed in an explosion in February 2010. Golsteyn believed the Afghan he killed was responsible for their deaths
Golsteyn filed an appeal to restore his Distinguished Service Cross, the military’s second-highest honor, as well as his Special Forces tab in December 2019
After filing his appeal to have his Special Forces designation and medals reinstated, Golsteyn’s attorney Phillip Stackhouse said he believed Trump would be willing to help with the effort.
‘What the President has told Matt is he’s allowed everything as though this never happened,’ Stackhouse told
Golsteyn decried the board’s decision in a statement to USA Today this week, saying the Army ‘defied’ Trump.
‘Clearly, we have seen military departments obey the direction of the Commander in Chief in other cases and, inexplicably, the Army defied the President,’ he said.
The Distinguished Service Cross (above in a file photo) is the military’s second-highest honor for valor in combat
The veteran also suggested that the board purposefully didn’t release the decision to until after Trump lost the election so that he couldn’t seek to overturn it.
‘It shouldn’t be a surprise the findings of the Army Board were released in November 2020 and not mailed to me for 2 more months, after President Trump left office, so my case could languish in the quagmire of Presidential transition,’ Golsteyn said.
His attorney, Stackhouse, called the decision ‘silly’ and said that President Joe Biden should ‘honor Trump’s commitment’ to wiping clean Golsteyn’s record.
Dwight Mears, the researcher who obtained the record with the decision and turned it over to USA Today, said the Army ‘may have dodged a bullet’ by releasing it after Trump left office.
‘Certainly, the Army had an incentive to avoid antagonizing the president here,’ Mears said.
‘It’s certainly possible Trump could have attempted to overrule the (board), which would be the worst-case scenario for the Army. He could theoretically have ordered them to rule differently, as they are all government employees.’
Trump’s intervention in Golsteyn’s case and that of two other accused war criminals – Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance and Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher – sparked tensions within the Pentagon in 2019.
The president pardoned Lorance, who had been serving a 19-year sentence for ordering soldiers to open fire on unarmed Afghan civilians, killing two of them, in 2012.
He also reversed a demotion for Gallagher, who was convicted of posing with the corpse of an ISIS fighter and acquitted of charges of murder and attempted murder.
Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance (left) was pardoned by Trump after being jailed for ordering soldiers to open fire on unarmed Afghan civilians, killing two of them, in 2012. Trump also reversed a demotion for Navy SEAL Eddie Gallagher (right) who was convicted of posing with the corpse of an ISIS fighter and acquitted of charges of murder and attempted murder