Lawyer for an accused Green Beret is thanking Trump, saying he’s about to throw out the Army’s war crimes case

Matt Golsteyn, 38, is a former special forces officer that is now being investigated for war crimes committed in Afghanistan. He is pictured in his Washington, DC office.

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Matt Golsteyn, 38, is a former special forces officer that is now being investigated for war crimes committed in Afghanistan. He is pictured in his Washington, DC office.
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Sarah L. Voisin / The Washington Post via Getty Images

  • An attorney for Green Beret Maj. Mathew Golsteyn said that President Donald Trump has “committed” to ending Golsteyn’s prosecution for war crimes.
  • The attorney, Phillip Stackhouse, told Insider that his team had been in touch with the White House through intermediaries, but declined to identify them in further detail.
  • Secretary of Defense Mark Esper made a case to Trump on Tuesday that he should not intervene in three high-profile war crimes cases, two of which have already been decided.
  • Visit Business Insider’s home page for more stories.

An attorney for Green Beret Maj. Mathew Golsteyn said that President Donald Trump has “committed” to ending Golsteyn’s prosecution for war crimes before his upcoming trial.

A press release from Golsteyn’s attorney, Phillip Stackhouse, sent to reporters on Thursday, says that “President Trump has committed to ending the dubious, long-delayed prosecution of the decorated Green Beret.” Golsteyn stands accused of murdering an unarmed alleged Afghan bombmaker in 2010, and is set to face trial in February 2020.

“News that the president is preparing to clear Maj. Golsteyn is encouraging,” Stackhouse says in the release. “It’s time to end this runaway prosecution which is contaminated by bogus ‘new’ evidence, compromised Taliban ‘witnesses’ purportedly found by a now-disgraced military investigator, and unproduced emails related to the case that go all the way to Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff,” Stackhouse said.

In a phone call with Insider, Stackhouse said that his team had been in contact with the president “through intermediaries,” but wouldn’t elaborate on the identity or identities of the intermediaries. Insider reached out to the White House for further information about the intermediaries, but did not hear back by press time. US Army Special Operations Command spokesman Lt. Col. Loren Bymer referred Insider to the White House for comment on Stackhouse’s statement.

Stackhouse said he had received assurances that the president would take action in his client’s case on Sunday, before a “Fox & Friends” report claimed that the president planned to intervene in Golsteyn’s case and two others. On Tuesday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper met with Trump to convince the president to allow the Uniform Code of Military Justice judgements to stand in all cases. When asked if he would still be confident asserting that Trump will intervene in his client’s case, Stackhouse told Insider, “I feel comfortable saying that.”

“Am I really interested in what [Esper] has to say? No,” Stackhouse said.

High-profile war crimes accusations

The president has publicly discussed ending Golsteyn’s prosecution, but as yet there has been no public announcement of his decision. Trump has also expressed interest in intervening in the cases of Navy SEAL Chief Eddie Gallagher and Army Lt. Clint Lorance, both of whom were accused of war crimes. Gallagher was acquitted of killing a teenage ISIS fighter and shooting at civilians while serving in Iraq. He was convicted of taking a photo with the young ISIS fighter’s body and demoted. Trump has publicly mulled restoring Gallagher’s rank.

Lorance is currently serving a 19-year sentence for ordering the murder of two unarmed Afghans, and for the attempted murder of a third, in 2012. Lorance and his attorneys have maintained his innocence, and his lawyers asserted in an appeal that the Afghan men were connected to terrorist networks.

“Maj. Golsteyn was originally cleared in this incident for which he now stands accused,” Stackhouse said, referring to a 2010 investigation by the Army Board of Inquiry, which found no conclusinve evidence that Golsteyn violated the rules of engagement in the incident, and recommended a general discharge for him. The board did, however, find him guilty of conduct unbecoming of an officer, the Army Times reports.

“He should have been separated or medically retired because of service-related injuries and allowed to move on with his life and family. Instead, the Army has secretly pursued him for seven years. The origination and true motivation of this prosecution remains a mystery,” Stackhouse wrote.

After a bomb blast killed two Marines on Golsteyn’s 2010 deployment to Afghanistan, his forces detained a man who a local tribal leader identified as a bomb-maker. Because of this identification, the tribal leader was concerned about Taliban reprisal attacks against him or his family, according to an Army investigation from 2011. The account alleges that Golsteyn led the unarmed suspect off base and shot him, coming back later to burn the corpse in a trash pit, Army Times reported.

Golsteyn relayed information about his involvement in the death of the Afghan man to CIA interviewers in 2011, the Washington Post reported in 2015. In 2016, he confessed to a version of these events on Fox News.