Iranian operative charged in plot to murder Trump national security adviser John Bolton

WASHINGTON — Authorities have charged a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps with planning the murder of former President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, in apparent retaliation for the January 2020 killing of top Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the Justice Department said Wednesday.

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Officials said Shahrah Poursafi, 45, offered to pay $300,000 to arrange for Bolton’s death. He has never been to the U.S. and remained at large on Wednesday, according to authorities. If he is arrested and convicted, Poursafi faces a maximum sentence of up to 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for the most serious charge against him.

In a criminal complaint unsealed Wednesday, an FBI special agent said Poursafi connected with a person online and spent months working with them to have Bolton “purged or eliminated.” As part of the murder-for-hire plot, he gave the unidentified person – who turned out to be a confidential informant for the FBI – Bolton’s work address, details of his schedule and tips for eluding authorities after killing him, court records show.

In a statement released Wednesday, President Joe Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, emphasized that authorities “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,” he said. “We will continue to bring to bear the full resources of the U.S. Government to protect Americans.”

Bolton had resigned from his role in the Trump administration before a U.S. airstrike claimed Soleimani’s life. He served as Trump’s national security adviser for 17 months, from April 2018 to September 2019, and reportedly left amid disagreements with the then-president over the handling of foreign policy issues with Iran, North Korea and Afghanistan.

Unlike the former president, Bolton did not want to lift sanctions on Iran as a way of negotiating with officials, instead advocating for putting further economic pressures on the country to force them to the table, according to The Washington Post.

In a statement released Wednesday, Bolton thanked officials for their work in investigating the threat against him and filing charges and called Iranian officials “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,” he said.

Justice Department officials unsealed the complaint against Poursafi two days after negotiators ended monthslong talks aimed at reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear accord, according to The Associated Press. The U.S. abandoned the agreement, which limited Iran’s development of ballistic weapons under threat of sanctions, while Trump was president in 2018.

On Wednesday, Bolton urged officials not to re-enter the agreement, calling it “the failed 2015 Iran nuclear deal” and saying that such a move “would be an unparalleled self-inflicted wound, to ourselves and our closest Middle East allies.”

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