Army won't reinstate elite status of soldier given clemency by Trump

President Donald Trump dismissed charges against Maj. Matt Golsteyn in November.
Mathew Golsteyn
Army Capt. Matt Golsteyn, now a major, was congratulated by fellow soldiers following a Valor Awards ceremony at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on Jan 4, 2011.James Robinson / The Fayetteville Observer via AP file

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By Courtney Kube, Carol E. Lee and Dartunorro Clark

The Army on Thursday declined to reinstate the Special Forces designation of a decorated Green Beret who was charged with committing premeditated murder a decade ago while deployed in Afghanistan and received clemency from President Donald Trump in November, it said in a letter to his attorney obtained by NBC News.

Maj. Matt Golsteyn returned to the United States without having been charged after he was accused of killing an Afghan man while deployed in southern Afghanistan in 2010. He was charged after he admitted the killing during a polygraph exam for a job at the CIA. Golsteyn said he killed the man, alleged to have been a bomb maker for the Taliban, in an ambush.

Trump dismissed charges against Golsteyn in November, when he also intervened in two other high-profile war crimes cases: He pardoned Clint Lorance, a former Army first lieutenant serving 19 years for ordering soldiers to fire on unarmed Afghan men, and he restored the rank of chief petty officer for Eddie Gallagher, a Navy SEAL who was convicted of posing with a dead body but was acquitted of more serious charges.

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The Army last month notified Golsteyn's attorney that it was denying a request to reinstate his Special Forces tab, a decision it reaffirmed on Thursday. The Army agreed to forgive more than $10,000 that Golsteyn owed for having been on leave.

Denial of Golsteyn's request could put the Army at loggerheads with the White House. Trump's role in Gallagher's case resulted in a showdown between the White House and the Defense Department, which ultimately led to the firing of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer.