WASHINGTON — President Trump said Sunday that he would examine the case of a Special Forces soldier charged by the Army last week with murdering a suspected Afghan bomb maker nearly nine years ago.
“At the request of many, I will be reviewing the case of a ‘U.S. Military hero,’ Major Matt Golsteyn, who is charged with murder,” Trump wrote on Twitter, responding to a segment on Fox News. “He could face the death penalty from our own government after he admitted to killing a Terrorist bomb maker while overseas.”
Golsteyn acknowledged the shooting both during a CIA job interview and in a 2016 segment on Fox. The case has become a cause among some conservatives who believe that the Army should not charge one of its soldiers for killing someone believed to be an enemy.
The shooting happened in February 2010, days after a roadside bomb killed two Marines who had worked with Golsteyn’s Green Beret team during the battle for the city of Marjah in Afghanistan, according to court documents obtained by The New York Times. US troops captured the Afghan man, who was found with bomb-making material, but then released him. It is unclear how Golsteyn tracked him down after his release.
The Army opened an investigation after Golsteyn told the CIA about the shooting in 2011. The Army closed the case without charging Golsteyn, but stripped him of a Silver Star, a high honor for Special Forces soldiers.
In a November 2016 appearance on Fox News, Golsteyn again said he had shot the man. Later that month, the Army opened a second investigation.
Golsteyn signed a memo acknowledging his murder charge Thursday. A preliminary hearing has not been scheduled, according to a spokesman for the Army Special Operations Command.
Trump’s comments Sunday were the latest instance in which he has raised the possibility of intervening in a legal matter handled by the executive branch. Last week, he threatened to stop a Justice Department effort to extradite and prosecute a Chinese tech executive on suspicion of fraud related to Iran sanctions if it helped buttress trade negotiations with China. And on Sunday morning, Trump tweeted several times about the special counsel investigation, which he has repeatedly condemned.
It was unclear how Trump might proceed if he does act, but he could use his pardon power or attempt to pressure or intervene in the prosecution. Trump also has a history of reacting to television news segments in tweets, and then failing to follow up.
Mike Berry, a reservist Marine Corps judge advocate, said Trump’s tweet about Golsteyn did not cross the line for what is known in the military as “undue command influence” over legal proceedings.