WASHINGTON – An Army general has denied a request by an officer pardoned in an open murder case by President Donald Trump to have his Special Forces tab reinstated, setting up a potential flashpoint with the commander in chief.
The decoration for retired Army Maj. Mathew Golsteyn was denied Dec. 3 by Lt. Gen. Francis Beaudette, the commander of U.S. Army Special Operations Command, the Army disclosed Thursday. Beaudette’s decision is not final, and the service said in a statement that it will next have an administrative panel consider whether it should reinstate the Special Forces Tab and a Distinguished Service Cross – the military’s second-highest valor award – and expunge a letter of reprimand Golsteyn received in connection with his case.
Golsteyn was awaiting trial this year in the alleged murder of a suspected Taliban bomb maker in Marja, Afghanistan, in February 2010. The service first opened an investigation into Golsteyn after he disclosed the killing during a 2011 polygraph as the CIA was considering him for a job. Army officials revoked the tab and valor award in 2014 while issuing the reprimand and charged Golsteyn with murder in 2018.
Golsteyn has acknowledged the killing in media interviews, but said it occurred in a lawful ambush. He burned the body afterward to prevent disease, he said.
The general’s action to deny Golsteyn’s reinstatement request follows Trump’s decision in November to pardon Golsteyn along with former 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, an Army officer who had been convicted of murder in Afghanistan. Trump also decided to reinstate the rank of a Navy SEAL, Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher, who was acquitted of murder last year but convicted of posing with an Islamic State corpse in Iraq.
Golsteyn, reached for comment Thursday evening, said he had not yet heard about the decision until it was first reported by The Washington Post. A few minutes later, he and his lawyer, Phil Stackhouse, said they received notification from the Army in an emailed letter that had just arrived.
“I’m disappointed, but I’m not surprised,” Golsteyn said. “I was really hoping they would do the right thing.”
Beaudette’s decision has some parallels to the Navy’s decision in November to convene a board to decide whether it would revoke Gallagher’s Naval Special Warfare Trident pin, a move that effectively would oust him from the elite force. Trump responded angrily, blocking the move, a decision that led to the ouster of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer.