Member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Charged with Plot to Murder Trump National Security Advisor John Bolton
Defendant Worked on Behalf of the IRGC to Hire Persons in the United States to Carry Out the Murder, Likely in Retaliation for the January 2020 Death of Qasem Soleimani
Note: A video statement from Department officials is available here.
An Iranian national and member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was charged by complaint, unsealed today in the District of Columbia, 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.
According to court documents, beginning in October 2021, Shahram Poursafi, aka Mehdi Rezayi, 45, of Tehran, Iran, attempted to arrange the murder of former National Security Advisor John Bolton, likely in retaliation for the January 2020 death of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – Qods Force (IRGC-QF) commander Qasem Soleimani. Poursafi, working on behalf of the IRGC-QF, attempted to pay individuals in the United States $300,000 to carry out the murder 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,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division. “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.”
“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,” said Executive Assistant Director Larissa L. Knapp of the FBI’s National Security Branch. “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.”
“Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, through the Defendant, tried to hatch a brazen plot: assassinate a former U.S. official on U.S. soil in retaliation for U.S. actions,” said U.S. Attorney Matthew M. Graves for the District of Columbia. “Iran and other hostile governments should understand that the U.S. Attorney’s Office and our law enforcement partners will do everything in our power to thwart their violent plots and bring those responsible to justice.”
“An attempted assassination of a former U.S. Government official on U.S. soil is completely unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” said Assistant Director in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono of the FBI Washington Field Office. “The FBI will continue to identify and disrupt any efforts by Iran or any hostile government seeking to bring harm or death to U.S. persons at home or abroad. This should serve as a warning to any others attempting to do the same – the FBI will be relentless in our efforts to identify, stop, and bring to justice those who would threaten our people and violate our laws.”
Statement from the National Security Advisor Ambassador John Bolton
NATIONAL SECURITY & DEFENSE
Issued on: May 5, 2019
In response to a number of troubling and escalatory indications and warnings, the United States is deploying the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a bomber task force to the U.S. Central Command region to send a clear and unmistakable message to the Iranian regime that any attack on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force. The United States is not seeking war with the Iranian regime, but we are fully prepared to respond to any attack, whether by proxy, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or regular Iranian forces.
Bolton warned about foreign military entering Venezuela.
Statement by National Security Advisor Ambassador John Bolton on Venezuela
Issued on: March 29, 2019
The Administration condemns Nicolas Maduro’s continued use of foreign military personnel in his attempt to remain in power, including the introduction of Russian military personnel and equipment into Venezuela. Maduro will only use this military support to further repress the people of Venezuela; perpetuate the economic crisis that has destroyed Venezuela’s economy; and endanger regional stability. We call on the Venezuelan military to uphold its constitutional duty to protect the citizens of Venezuela.
We strongly caution actors external to the Western Hemisphere against deploying military assets to Venezuela, or elsewhere in the Hemisphere with the intent of establishing or expanding military operations. We will consider such provocative actions as a direct threat to international peace and security in the region. We will continue to defend and protect the interests of the United States, and those of our partners in the Western Hemisphere, which are rooted in a shared respect for liberty, security, and the rule of law.
Court documents lay out the plot for the murder for hire of John Bolton
According to court documents, on Oct. 22, 2021, Poursafi asked Individual A, a U.S. resident whom Poursafi previously met online, to take photographs of the former National Security Advisor, claiming the photographs were for a book Poursafi was writing. Individual A told Poursafi that he/she could introduce Poursafi to another person who would take the pictures for $5,000-$10,000. Individual A later introduced Poursafi to an associate (referred to in court documents as the confidential human source or CHS).
On Nov. 9, 2021, Poursafi contacted the CHS on an encrypted messaging application, and then directed the CHS to a second encrypted messaging application for further communications. Poursafi offered the CHS $250,000 to hire someone to “eliminate” the former National Security Advisor. This amount would later be negotiated up to $300,000. Poursafi added that he had an additional “job,” for which he would pay $1 million.
Poursafi directed the CHS to open a cryptocurrency account to facilitate payment, but stipulated that the CHS would likely have to carry out the murder before he/she could be paid. He further explained to the CHS that if he/she was paid and the murder was not completed, Poursafi’s “group” would be angry. A later search of one of Poursafi’s online accounts revealed pictures of Poursafi wearing a uniform with an IRGC patch. During their communications, the CHS made several references to Poursafi being associated with IRGC-QF. Poursafi never denied his involvement with IRGC-QF.
On Nov. 14, 2021, the CHS asked Poursafi for help locating the former National Security Advisor. Poursafi subsequently provided the CHS with the target’s work address in Washington, D.C. According to results from the search of one of Poursafi’s online accounts, on Nov. 25, 2021, Poursafi took screenshots of a map application showing a street view of the former National Security Advisor’s office. One screenshot noted that the address was “10,162 km away,” which is the approximate distance between Washington, D.C. and Tehran, Iran.
On Nov. 19, 2021, Poursafi told the CHS that it did not matter how the murder was carried out, but his “group” would require video confirmation of the target’s death. The CHS asked Poursafi what would happen if the killing was attributed to Iran. Poursafi told the CHS not to worry and that Poursafi’s “group” would take care of it.
Poursafi also advised the CHS to communicate about the plot in construction and building terms. For example, when the CHS asked Poursafi to specify how the murder was to be carried out, Poursafi told the CHS that he only asked the CHS to build a structure, but the method of construction was up to the CHS.
On Dec. 22, 2021, Poursafi sent the CHS a photograph of two plastic bags, each of which appeared to contain bound stacks of U.S. currency and a handwritten note beneath them that said, “[CHS’s name] 22.12.2021”.
On Dec. 29, 2021, Poursafi asked the CHS when the murder would be carried out and informed the CHS that his “group” wanted it done quickly.
On Jan. 3, 2022, Poursafi noted he was under pressure from “his people” to complete the murder and that Poursafi had to report any delays. The CHS asked Poursafi how many people were involved. Poursafi told the CHS that he only had to report to one person, but that there was a chain of command to whom his superior reported. That same day, Poursafi expressed regret that the murder would not be conducted by the anniversary of Qasem Soleimani’s death. He stated he was concerned that if it was not carried out soon, the job would be taken from Poursafi and the CHS. Poursafi counseled the CHS that if he/she used a “small weapon,” he/she would have to get close to the target, but if he/she used a “larger weapon,” he/she could stay farther away.
On Jan. 18, 2022, the CHS sent Poursafi publicly available information that suggested the former National Security Advisor might be travelling out of the Washington, D.C., area during the time Poursafi indicated he would like the CHS to carry out the murder. Poursafi told the CHS that he needed to “check something.” Within an hour, he told the CHS that the target was, in fact, not travelling. He then provided the CHS with specifics regarding the former National Security Advisor’s schedule that do not appear to have been publicly available.
On Jan. 21, 2022, Poursafi told the CHS that after successful completion of the first “job,” he had a second “job” for the CHS and informed the CHS that surveillance of the second target was complete. Poursafi said the information was gathered “from the United States,” not “via Google,” indicating someone working on behalf of the IRGC-QF had already conducted pre-operational surveillance on the second target in the United States.
On Feb. 1, 2022, Poursafi told the CHS that if he/she did not eliminate the target within two weeks, the job would be taken from the CHS. He also informed the CHS that someone checked the area around the former National Security Advisor’s home, and he believed there was not a security presence, so the CHS should be able to “finish the job.”
On March 10, 2022, Poursafi told the CHS he had another assassination job for the CHS in the United States but to “keep [the former National Security Advisor] in the back of your mind.” Approximately one month later, Poursafi encouraged the CHS to accept this offer, explaining that if it was done successfully, Poursafi would be able to ingratiate himself with his “group” and regain the tasking to murder the former National Security Advisor.
On April 28, 2022, the CHS told Poursafi that he/she would not continue to work without being paid. Poursafi agreed to send the CHS $100 in cryptocurrency to a virtual wallet the CHS created earlier that day, to prove payment could be made. Later that day, the cryptocurrency wallet received two payments totaling $100.
If convicted, Poursafi faces up to 10 years imprisonment and a fine up to $250,000 for the use of interstate commerce facilities in the commission of murder-for-hire, and up to 15 years imprisonment and a fine up to $250,000 for providing and attempting to provide material support to a transnational murder plot. Poursafi remains at large abroad.
Commentators agree that by appointing John Bolton as National Security Advisor (NSA), the President has made an excellent choice to confront the challenges of a dangerous world and build on the accomplishments of outgoing NSA H.R. McMaster.
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL EDITORIAL BOARD: John Bolton for National Security
“President Trump has said he is at last assembling a Cabinet team to his liking, and late Thursday he announced that John Bolton will replace General H.R. McMaster as his National Security Adviser. It is a solid and experienced choice…. Mr. Bolton’s first job will be to prepare the President for an historic meeting with Kim Jong Un. We may assume Pyongyang knows now that bluffing the U.S. won’t work.”
FORMER SENATOR TOM COBURN (R-OK) IN USA TODAY: Bolton Right Choice on National Security
“The president’s decision to appoint John Bolton as his national security adviser reflects an understanding of the critical lessons of history, and the Bolton designation will greatly reduce the grave risks now faced by America during today’s increasingly troubled times.”
USA TODAY’S JAMES S. ROBBINS: John Bolton will Finally Let Donald Trump be Donald Trump on Foreign Policy
“If the president can get a better trade deal for American workers while also encouraging Beijing to make Pyongyang see reason and abandon its nuclear weapons, he could be in the running for a Nobel Peace Prize. And Bolton and Pompeo are likely to help him get there.”
NATIONAL REVIEW’S DAVID FRENCH: John Bolton isn’t Dangerous. The World is.
“He’s a former U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. He’s on the board of trustees of the National Review Institute. He’s a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute. He’s a conservative hawk, yes, but he’s squarely in the mainstream of conservative foreign-policy thought.”
THE NEW YORK TIMES’ BRET STEPHENS: John Bolton is Right About the U.N.
“I agree with Bolton about some things and disagree about others. But on the U.N. he’s been right all along. If his presence in the White House helps to scare the organization into real reform, so much the better.”
AMERICAN ENTERPRISE INSTITUTE’S MICHAEL RUBIN IN THE WASHINGTON EXAMINER: Enough with the John Bolton Smears — He’ll be the Best National Security Adviser in a Generation
“But Bolton is a formidable intellect, a clear thinker, organized, and a team player. The purpose of the National Security Council is to coordinate the interagency process. Not only is Bolton meticulous about process, but he also has the wherewithal to do two things so many past national security advisers did not: force decisions when they needed to be made and then impose discipline on the process to ensure those decisions were carried out.”
HUGH HEWITT IN THE WASHINGTON POST: John Bolton is a Great Addition to the White House
“As the president’s top security aide, Bolton will be an honest broker and someone who can drive decisions through molasses-thick resistance. These qualities, plus his top-shelf intellect, make Bolton the best national security player to join Trump’s West Wing team so far.”
NEW YORK POST’S MICHAEL GOODWIN: White House Shake-Ups Prove Trump’s Putting America First
“In truth, Bolton is a hawk because the world is full of dangerous actors and some evil ones and he sensibly believes there’s no point of being America if we’re going to roll over and surrender our advantages. Already there are rumblings that Russia, China and North Korea won’t be happy to see Bolton having the president’s ear — which proves Trump chose wisely.”