The case of Army Maj. Matthew Golsteyn is “now under review at the White House,” the president tweeted on Saturday.
The case of Major Mathew Golsteyn is now under review at the White House. Mathew is a highly decorated Green Beret who is being tried for killing a Taliban bombmaker. We train our boys to be killing machines, then prosecute them when they kill! @PeteHegseth
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 12, 2019
The tweet came soon after a Fox News segment highlighted the case on Saturday morning. Host Pete Hegseth claimed that Golsteyn was turned from a “military hero to enemy of the state” before interviewing his mother, Nancy, and Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) about recent developments.
“This is going to take President Trump doing something about this and calling this off, and looking at the Army prosecutors and lawyers and how they abuse the system to put guys like Matt in jail,” said Hunter, who was indicted in Aug. 2018 on charges he used campaign funds for personal expenses (Hunter goes to trial in Jan. 2020).
“Matt deserves better than what the government is doing to him right now,” Hunter said.
Golsteyn, a decorated Special Forces officer, admitted during a CIA polygraph test in 2011 that he had killed an unarmed Afghan during a 2010 deployment, after a tribal leader said the man was a bomb-maker who had killed two Marines.
Since then, he's been on legal hold that has kept him from retiring from the Army. The Army revoked his Special Forces qualification and a Silver Star he earned during that deployment due to the investigation, according to Army Times.
As Task & Purpose's Jeff Schogol previously reported:
Golsteyn believed that the Afghan man would kill the tribal leader in retribution for identifying him, so Golsteyn executed the man off base, the Washington Post reported. After initially burying the man, Golsteyn and two other soldiers later dug up the remains and burned them.
Army Criminal Investigation Command initially did not find enough evidence to charge Golsteyn, but an investigation was re-opened after the Green Beret talked about the killing during an October 2016 interview with Fox News' Bret Baier.
When Baier asked Golsteyn if he had killed the Afghan man, Golsteyn replied, “Yes.”
That the killing occurred is not in dispute. The Army maintains that the man — who was captured and subsequently released due to lack of evidence against him — was murdered by Golsteyn, who said in his CIA interview that he shot him and then buried the remains in a shallow grave. Later that night, Golsteyn and two other soldiers returned and dug up the remains so they could be burned, The Washington Post reported.
Golsteyn argues that he conducted a legal ambush of the man, who he said was walking toward Taliban positions.
It's not clear what other evidence the Army has against Golsteyn. A CIA polygraph test is inadmissible in court, and other service members who were potential witnesses had previously refused to testify even after being offered immunity, the Post reported.
Prosecutors recently sought to travel to Afghanistan to speak with four people in Afghanistan about the case. The judge approved their request and ordered them to be finished within 30 days.
“We appreciate the intensifying scrutiny by the President and others of this runaway investigation and prosecution,” Philip Stackhouse, Golsteyn's civilian attorney, said in a statement to Task & Purpose.
“Major Golsteyn was cleared in this incident years ago, yet the Army's secretive prosecution will violate Matt's constitutional rights if he doesn't return to a kinetic Taliban battle zone to defend himself. These betrayals leave the Golsteyn family in a state of constant uncertainty and fear.”
A spokesman for U.S. Army Special Operations Command referred Task & Purpose to The White House for questions regarding what the president meant by the case being under review. The spokesman, Lt. Col. Loren Bymer, said on Saturday that the trial is currently set to begin on Dec. 2.
Trump previously said he was reviewing the case in Dec. 2018. In a tweet at the time, which tagged Hegseth and Fox News, Trump said he was “reviewing the case of a 'U.S. Military hero,' Major Matt Golsteyn, “at the request of many.”
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.