John Bolton was the target of Iranian murder plot in 'likely' retaliation for general's death: Prosecutors

The suspect, Shahram Poursafi, remains at large abroad.

August 10, 2022, 3:49 PM

The Justice Department on Wednesday unsealed charges against an Iranian national and member of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Corps whom prosecutors say allegedly tried to arrange the murder of Donald Trump's former national security adviser John Bolton in "likely" retaliation for the killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani when Trump was president.

The criminal complaint against 45-year-old Shahram Poursafi, who remains at large abroad, accuses him of attempting to pay various individuals in the U.S. $300,000 to kill Bolton, beginning in October.

Poursafi is charged with use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire and with providing and attempting to provide material support to a transnational murder plot.

In a statement after the case was unsealed Wednesday, Bolton said, in part: "I wish to thank the Justice Department for initiating the criminal proceeding unsealed today; the FBI for its diligence in discovering and tracking the Iranian regime’s criminal threat to American citizens; and the Secret Service for once again providing protection against Tehran’s efforts."

"While much cannot be said publicly right now, one point is indisputable: Iran’s rulers are liars, terrorists, and enemies of the United States. Their radical, anti-American objectives are unchanged; their commitments are worthless; and their global threat is growing," Bolton said.

A spokesperson for Iran's foreign minister pushed back on the Justice Department's case, calling it a “baseless” fabrication that was politically motivated.

The criminal complaint and supporting law enforcement affidavit allege how the Tehran-based Poursafi and the person he wanted to hire in the U.S. to arrange the killing -- identified by the FBI as a confidential human source -- conducted months of video and photo surveillance of Bolton at his home and office, in the Washington area, in late 2021 and early 2022.

According to the affidavit's timeline, on Oct. 22 Poursafi asked an unnamed U.S. resident to take photographs of Bolton while claiming it was for a book that Poursafi was writing. The resident later introduced Poursafi to the FBI's confidential source and Poursafi offered this person money to hire someone to "eliminate" Bolton, adding he had another "job" for which he would pay $1,000,000, the affidavit claims.

Investigators also said that Poursafi appeared to have private information about Bolton's routine and schedule, though the source of his information was not clear.

PHOTO: Shahram Poursafi is wanted for his alleged involvement in criminal activities to include material support to terrorism and the attempted murder for hire of a former high-ranking United States Government (USG) official.
Shahram Poursafi is wanted for his alleged involvement in criminal activities to include material support to terrorism and the attempted murder for hire of a former high-ranking United States Government (USG) official.
FBI

At one point Poursafi allegedly suggested Bolton be killed by car or in the parking garage at his work and later said he should be shot -- either while he was alone or, if he was in a group, without harming anyone else -- the FBI said in the complaint affidavit.

The source whom Poursafi allegedly worked with told Poursafi they were working with a third individual who had ties to a cartel, the affidavit states.

The complaint affidavit also documents extensive communications between Poursafi and the confidential source. At one point, according to the complaint, he advised the source that killing someone "was like crossing the street; it was better not to spend too much time looking in one direction, but just to do it."

Poursafi also told the FBI's source that his “group” would require video confirmation of the target’s death, according to the affidavit. Poursafi repeatedly made further contact with the source, stating he was under pressure from his "group" or "his people" to have the killing carried out.

PHOTO: National Security Adviser John Bolton attends a meeting with President Donald Trump as he meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, Aug. 26, 2019.
National Security Adviser John Bolton attends a meeting with President Donald Trump as he meets with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi at the G-7 summit in Biarritz, France, Aug. 26, 2019.
Andrew Harnik/AP, FILE

In January, the FBI alleged in the affidavit, Poursafi told the source he had a second "job" once Bolton was killed and he suggested that someone working for the Revolutionary Guard Corps was conducting surveillance on an unnamed second target in the U.S.

"This is not the first time we have uncovered Iranian plots to exact revenge against individuals on U.S. soil and we will work tirelessly to expose and disrupt every one of these efforts," Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen said in a statement Wednesday.

In a statement later Wednesday, President Joe Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said: "The Biden Administration will not waiver in protecting and defending all Americans against threats of violence and terrorism. Should Iran attack any of our citizens, to include those who continue to serve the United States or those who formerly served, Iran will face severe consequences. We will continue to bring to bear the full resources of the U.S. Government to protect Americans."

ABC News' Adam Carlson, Sarah Kolinovsky, Somayeh Malekian and John Santucci contributed to this report.

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