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Justice Department charges Iranian with plotting assassination of John Bolton

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LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images

The U.S. Department of Justice has charged a member of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps with plotting the assassination of John Bolton, who served as national security adviser to former President Donald Trump and ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush.

Shahram Poursafi, aka Mehdi Rezayi, 45, of Tehran, Iran, is charged with the 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, the Justice Department announced Wednesday.

Officials said the alleged transnational murder plot against Bolton was "likely in retaliation" for the death of senior Iranian military leader Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a January 2020 U.S. airstrike.

Bolton is a longtime critic of the Iranian regime and while advising President Trump was one of the fiercest advocates for withdrawing the U.S. from the Iran nuclear deal negotiated by the Obama administration. He has vocally supported regime change in Iran and called the strike against Soleimani "long in the making" and "a decisive blow against Iran's malign Quds Force activities worldwide."

Poursafi is accused of attempting to pay individuals in the United States $300,000 to assassinate Bolton in Washington, D.C., or Maryland.

“The Justice Department has the solemn duty to defend our citizens from hostile governments who seek to hurt or kill them,” Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen said in a statement. “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.”

The alleged plot began in late 2021. Poursafi allegedly told a DOJ confidential human source that he would need confirmation of Bolton's murder or that his "group" would be angry.

Court documents allege that Poursafi said he was under pressure from "his people" to carry out the murder plot and that he expressed regret it would not be completed before the anniversary of Soleimani's death.

On January 21, 2022, Poursafi allegedly told the source he had a second assassination job on an unidentified target in the United States.

Poursafi has not been arrested and remains at large abroad.

Alleged assassination plots have reportedly prompted the U.S. government to increase security measures around Bolton, former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and former Iran envoy Brian Hook.

In January, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned Iran that the U.S. would protect officials "serving the United States now and those who formerly served."

“Iran has a history of plotting to assassinate individuals in the U.S. it deems a threat, but the U.S. government has a longer history of holding accountable those who threaten the safety of our citizens,” Larissa Knapp, executive assistant director of the FBI’s National Security Branch, said in a statement.

"Let there be no doubt: The FBI, the U.S. government, and our partners remain vigilant in the fight against such threats here in the U.S. and overseas,” she added.

Member of Iran’s IRGC Charged with Plot to Murder Former National Security Advisor youtu.be

In a statement, Bolton thanked the Justice Department, FBI, and Secret Service for their work.

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

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