Trump says he will review the case of soldier charged with murder

Posted at 8:25 PM, Dec 16, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-16 22:25:19-05

(CNN) — President Donald Trump said on Sunday that he will review the case of Army Major Matt Golsteyn, a Special Forces soldier and Afghanistan veteran charged with pre-meditated murder.

“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. He could face the death penalty from our own government after he admitted to killing a Terrorist bomb maker while overseas. @PeteHegseth @FoxNews” Trump tweeted.

Golsteyn has been charged in a 2010 killing of a suspected bomb maker in Afghanistan as part of a battle in Helmand Province. His lawyer, Philip Stackhouse, has maintained the death occurred during a mission ordered by his superiors.

The Army has been investigating the killing intermittently since 2011.

The incident came up during a polygraph for a 2011 CIA job interview, The Washington Post reported, saying Golsteyn admitted to killing the bombmaker. However Stackhouse has disputed how the admission was characterized by Army officials.

Golsteyn was on “excess leave” from the Army until last Monday, when he was called up for active duty and then charged on Tuesday, according to Stackhouse.

After several news stories about the charges, Trump then weighed in on Sunday.

Trump’s tweet could also cause problems for the military prosecution of Golsteyn since the commander in chief does not usually weigh in on ongoing cases to avoid undue influence on the process.

“The allegations against Major Matt Golsteyn are a law enforcement matter,” Pentagon spokesman Col. Rob Manning told CNN. “The Department of Defense will respect the integrity of this process and provide updates when appropriate.”

Gary Solis, a retired Marine Corps judge advocate who teaches the law of war at West Point and Georgetown University Law Center, said that for Trump, as commander in chief, “to express his view, publicly, that the individual is guilty or not guilty may tend to prejudice a jury one way or the other or the court itself, for that matter.”

Solis went on to say that past court cases have indicated the President is far removed from the actual chain of command, perhaps too far to have any actual influence on jurors or courts.

CNN has reached out to other military officials for additional comment.