The Justice Department has charged an alleged Iranian agent with plotting to assassinate former Trump national security adviser John Bolton.
Shahram Poursafi offered to pay contacts in the United States up to $300,000 to assassinate Bolton, according to unsealed court documents on Wednesday. The Justice Department said the plot was likely in retaliation for the US killing of top Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani in January 2020.
Bolton, an Iran-hawk who served as former President Donald Trump’s national security adviser from 2018 to 2019, thanked the Justice Department and the FBI for uncovering and thwarting the alleged plot.
“While not much can be said publicly at this time, one point is indisputable: Iran’s leaders are liars, terrorists and enemies of the United States,” he said. “Their radical anti-American goals are unchanged; commitments are worthless; and their global threat grows.”
Poursafi, who is 45 and believed to be in Iran, was charged in a criminal complaint with two counts: using interstate commerce to commit murder for hire; and providing material support to a transnational murder plot.
Court documents provide a wealth of details about Poursafi’s alleged efforts to stage the assassination from afar.
In October 2021, he first contacted someone identified only as Individual A on social media and asked them to take photos of Bolton for a book Poursafi was writing, according to prosecutors.
This person put Poursafi in touch with a second person, identified as a Government Confidential Human Source, or CHS, who could take the photos.
A few weeks later, Poursafi asked the CHS on an encrypted messaging app if they could hire someone for $200,000 to “take someone out.” He then provided Bolton’s name and clarified that he was the target.
Court documents indicate that Poursafi and CHS negotiated potential payments, and the award eventually rose to $300,000 to compensate CHS as well as the person CHS hired to carry out the murder.
Poursafi reportedly asked the CHS to open a cryptocurrency account for possible payment, but he stressed that “his group” would only pay for completed work.
Court documents indicate that Poursafi then provided the CHS with the address of Bolton’s office in Washington, D.C., including the name and contact information for a person in the office.
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In mid-November, the CHS told Poursafi that arrangements had been made with an individual who would carry out the murder.
A few days later, the CHS traveled from Texas to Washington, visited Bolton’s office, and sent Poursafi two photos of the building. Poursafi said the facility’s parking lot would be a good place to perform the stunt.
On December 2, the CHS said the person hired to kill Bolton was at Bolton’s house taking pictures.
Poursafi seemed increasingly worried that the plot would not materialize and told the CHS that if one took too long to plan something, the window of opportunity could pass.
“The CHS thanked Poursafi for his advice and said he/she had no experience in the world of espionage or any training in killing people,” court documents said.
In mid-January, the CHS told Poursafi that they had acquired three pickup trucks along with weapons, silencers and ammunition. But later that month he said there was a problem and security issues. Poursafi lobbied for the CHS to “finish the job” and suspended more work in the future.
The two sides kept in touch until April, although no action was ultimately taken against Bolton.
“The Department of Justice has a solemn duty to defend our citizens against hostile governments that seek to harm or kill them,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen, who heads the department’s national security division. of Justice. “This is not the first time we have uncovered Iranian plots to exact revenge on individuals on American soil and we will work tirelessly to expose and disrupt each such effort.”