DOJ Charges Iranian in Plot to Murder Ex-Trump Adviser John Bolton

WASHINGTON—The Biden administration charged a member of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps on Wednesday with plotting to murder John Bolton, a national security adviser to former President Donald Trump.

The Justice Department alleged that Shahram Poursafi, also known as Mehdi Rezayi, 45, of Tehran, was likely motivated to kill Bolton in retaliation for the death of Qassem Soleimani, a commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) killed in a U.S. drone strike in January 2020. The IRGC is designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. government.

Iran’s mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Iran does not have an extradition treaty with the United States, and Poursafi remains at large. The FBI on Wednesday released a most-wanted poster.

Shahram Poursafi
An FBI wanted poster shows Shahram Poursafi, also known as Mehdi Rezayi, of Tehran, Iran, in an image released on Aug. 10, 2022. (Federal Bureau of Investigation/Handout via Reuters)

According to the criminal complaint, Poursafi asked a U.S. resident identified only as “Individual A” to take photographs of Bolton, under the guise that the photos were needed for a forthcoming book. The U.S. resident then introduced Poursafi to a covert government informant who could take the photographs for a price.

Investigators said the following month Poursafi contacted the informant on an encrypted messaging application and offered the person $250,000 to hire someone to “eliminate” Bolton—an amount that would later be negotiated up to $300,000.

When the informant asked Poursafi to be more specific in his request, he said he wanted “the guy” purged, and he provided Bolton’s first and last name, according to a sworn statement in support of the complaint.

He later directed the informant to open a cryptocurrency account to facilitate the payment. In subsequent communications, he allegedly told the informant it did not matter how the killing was carried out, but that his “group” would require a video as proof that the deed was done.

In a statement on Twitter on Wednesday, Bolton thanked the Justice Department for taking action.

“While much cannot be said publicly right now, one point is indisputable,” he said. “Iran’s rulers are liars, terrorists, and enemies of the United States.”

John R. Bolton
Former National Security Advisor John R. Bolton speaks during the Bay of Pigs Veterans Association luncheon at the Biltmore Hotel in Coral Gables, Fla., on April 17, 2019. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

The State Department had no immediate comment on whether the decision to charge Poursafi was in any way linked to U.S. diplomacy seeking to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Indirect talks between the United States and Iran wrapped up in Vienna on Monday with European Union officials saying they had put forward a final text to resuscitate the agreement, under which Tehran curbed its nuclear program in return for relief from U.S., EU, and U.N. economic sanctions.

Trump withdrew from the nuclear deal in 2018 and restored harsh U.S. sanctions on Iran.