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

Access to the comments Comments
By Courtney Kube and Carol E. Lee and Dartunorro Clark  with NBC News Politics
Mathew Golsteyn
U.S. Army Captain Mathew Golsteyn is congratulated by fellow soldiers following the Valor Awards ceremony at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, on Jan 4., 2011.   -   Copyright  James Robinson The Fayetteville Observer via AP file

The U.S. 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 later received clemency from President Donald Trump last November, it said in a letter to his lawyer obtained by NBC News.

Army Green Beret Maj. Matt Golsteyn was accused of killing an Afghan man while deployed to southern Afghanistan at the time of the man's death in 2010 and returned to the U.S. without any charges. He was charged after he admitted to the killing during a polygraph for a job at the CIA. Golsteyn said he killed the man, an alleged Taliban bombmaker, in an ambush.

Trump in November dismissed charges against Golsteyn, also intervening in two other high profile war crimes cases. He pardoned Clint Lorance, a former Army officer serving 19 years for ordering soldiers to fire on unarmed Afghan men and promoted Edward Gallagher, a Navy SEAL convicted of posing with a dead body but acquitted of more serious charges.

The Army in December notified Golsteyn's lawyer 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 as a result of being on leave.

The decision to deny Golsteyn's request could put the Army at loggerheads with the White House. Trump's role in Gallagher's case, restoring Gallagher's Trident pin, resulted in a showdown between the White House and the Pentagon which ultimately led to the firing of Navy Secretary Richard Spencer.