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The US Army has reportedly denied a request to return medals of valor to a retired major accused of murder in Afghanistan who was pardoned by former President Donald Trump.
Retired Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, who was pardoned in November 2019, was denied his December 2019 request to an Army review board to restore his Distinguished Service Cross, USA Today reported, citing documents obtained by the newspaper.
Golsteyn initially was awarded a Silver Star for heroism, but it was upgraded following a review, USA Today reported.
The Army also rejected his request to restore his Special Forces tab that distinguished him as a member of an elite unit. The decision was made in June, but wasn’t announced by Army officials ahead of Trump’s final months in the White House, according to the report.
Golsteyn was charged with murder in late 2018 for shooting and then burying a suspected Taliban bomb-maker in Afghanistan during a deployment eight years earlier. He was awaiting trial when Trump pardoned him in November 2019.
Trump intervened in the case after tweeting that he was reviewing the case of the “highly decorated” Green Beret.
“We train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill!” Trump tweeted.
The Army review board denied all of Golsteyn’s requests, including to remove the letter of reprimand in his personnel file in connection with the case, citing a Department of Justice letter indicating that the pardon didn’t clear his record, according to the report.
The “Presidential pardon is a sign of forgiveness and ‘does not indicate innocence,’” the Army review board wrote while citing a 2011 letter from the CIA to the Pentagon acknowledging that Golsteyn admitted to killing the unarmed Afghan man.
An Army spokesman confirmed the denial by the board, but said privacy laws prevented him from elaborating.
Golsteyn, meanwhile, denounced the decision in a statement provided by his attorney, criticizing the Army for not making good on Trump’s pledge during a November 2019 phone call to expunge his record and clear him of wrongdoing, USA Today reported.
“Clearly, we have seen military departments obey the direction of the commander-in-chief in other cases and, inexplicably, the Army defied the president,” Golsteyn said.
“It should 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’s attorney said the board’s decision was “silly,” adding that Trump’s pledge to clear his record entitles him to his medals and Special Forces designation.
Golsteyn hasn’t decided whether to appeal the decision in federal court, but President Biden should honor Trump’s prior commitment, attorney Phillip Stackhouse told USA Today.
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