Army denies appeal to return medals to soldier Trump pardoned

The Army denied an appeal to return medals for valor to retired Maj. Mathew Golsteyn, a Special Forces soldier whom former President Trump pardoned for allegedly murdering a man in Afghanistan, an Army spokesperson told The Hill on Thursday.

USA Today first reported on the decision on Wednesday after obtaining documents that determined the Army decided not to return the medals to Golsteyn last June after Trump pardoned him in the killing of a suspected Taliban bomb maker in 2010. 

Golsteyn had submitted a request to the Army review board in December 2019 asking for his Distinguished Service Cross to be reinstated after he was pardoned that November. 

In its denial, the Army Board for Correction of Military Records pointed to a Justice Department letter that said his pardon “is a sign of forgiveness and ‘does not indicate innocence,’ ” according to USA Today.

Army spokesman Lt. Col. Gabriel Ramirez acknowledged the board’s decision to The Hill but said privacy laws prevented him from further remarks.   

“The Army Board for Correction of Military Records, the service’s highest level of administrative review for personnel actions, has considered and denied Mathew Golsteyn’s application,” he said in a statement. “Privacy laws prevent the Army from disclosing specific information regarding the Board’s decision.”

USA Today noted that Golsteyn’s name was redacted in the board’s documents but that facts and issues mentioned “make clear that he is the subject of their deliberation and his lawyer acknowledged the document’s authenticity.”

Golsteyn issued a statement through his lawyer condemning the board’s conclusion and claiming Trump vowed his record would be cleared in a phone call. 

“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 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.”

His lawyer, Phillip Stackhouse, labeled the board’s ruling as “silly” and in a statement to USA Today called on President Biden to follow through with Trump’s promise. He indicated that his client had not determined whether he will take the case to federal court, according to the newspaper. 

“It’s repugnant that that Army continues to denigrate Matt’s heroism on the battlefield,” Stackhouse said in a statement obtained by The Hill. “The false allegations are alleged to have happened well after the Valorous actions on the battle field and the Army should be ashamed to keep the false narrative alive at this point. It’s an embarrassment and disloyal.”

An investigation was launched after Golsteyn admitted in an interview to join the CIA that he killed the bomb maker who was ordered to be released, prompting the murder charge. 

In controversial moves, Trump pardoned Golsteyn and Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance and reversed the demotion for Navy SEAL Edward Gallagher in November 2019.

The Army previously rejected Golsteyn’s appeal to reinstate his Special Forces tab after his pardon. Both his Special Forces tab and his Distinguished Service Cross were taken from him in 2014. 

— Updated on March 18 at 9:17 a.m.

Tags Army Distinguished Service Cross Donald Trump Joe Biden Mathew Golsteyn medals Pardon Trump pardon

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