(CNN) — The US Department of Justice announced criminal charges on Wednesday against a member of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for allegedly trying to orchestrate the assassination of senior John Bolton. Homeland Security during the Trump and Bush administrations.
The alleged plot was “likely in retaliation” for the US airstrike in January 2020, which killed IRGC commander Qasem Soleimani, the Justice Department reported. Following the operation, the leaders of the terrorist organization vowed to “take revenge on the Americans” for Soleimani’s death and publicly lashed out at then-President Donald Trump and other senior officials in his administration.
Prosecutors accused Shahram Poursafi, a 45-year-old Iranian citizen and IRGC member, of trying to pay an individual in the United States $300,000 to kill Bolton. And they added that the suspect had a “second job” for 1 million dollars.
Former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was also a target in the Iranian assassination plot, according to a federal law enforcement source familiar with the investigation and a source close to Pompeo. The “second job” referred to Pompeo, the source close to the former secretary said.
A known hawk on Iran policy, Pompeo was Trump’s secretary of state at the time of the airstrike that killed Soleimani. Pompeo was directly informed by the Justice Department on Wednesday of last week that he was a second target in an IRGC assassination plot, a source close to the former official told CNN.
Poursafi, who has not been arrested and remains at large, initially contacted a person residing in the US who was secretly working as an FBI informant and who has been called a “confidential human source” (CHS). its acronym in English), according to court documents. The suspect asked that individual to take photos of Bolton “for a book that Poursafi was writing,” the records state.
He then asked the informant if he could hire someone to “take someone out,” which he later revealed was Bolton, and promised protection for the CHS and the killer, prosecutors said. Poursafi also allegedly suggested that the murder should be carried out “by car”, providing CHS with an address for the Bolton office and noting that the former adviser had a habit of walking alone.
In November 2021, the informant traveled to the city of Washington and sent Poursafi photos of the Bolton office, as well as descriptions of the building. Poursafi allegedly said that the murder should take place in the building’s garage, as it was a “high-traffic” area.
Poursafi was charged with using interstate commerce facilities to commit murder for hire, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and with attempting to provide material support to a transnational assassination plot, which carries a sentence of up to 15 years. from jail
Bolton: “I am ashamed of the low price”
Bolton, who served as Trump’s national security adviser from April 2018 until the former president fired him in September 2019 via Twitter, thanked the Justice Department, the FBI and the Secret Service for their efforts.
“Although not much can be said publicly at this time, one point is indisputable: Iran’s rulers are liars, terrorists and enemies of the United States,” he said. “Their radical and anti-American goals have not changed. Their commitments are worthless and their global threat is growing,” she added.
Speaking to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on Wednesday night, Bolton joked that he is “embarrassed by the low price” allegedly offered to assassinate him.
The former national security adviser said he had “long had a general understanding of what the threat was” coming from Iran, but learned many of the details of the assassination plot through documents released by the Justice Department that same day. day.
“I think it is quite correct to say that many other Americans are among the targets of this regime. It tells you what the regime is. It reveals its character,” said the former national security adviser.
Bolton, a hardline neoconservative, had previously advocated regime change in Iran and backed Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the multinational nuclear deal with that country. As for the current government, Bolton called on Biden to end efforts to return to the Iran nuclear deal, which the US withdrew from in 2018, while he posed as National Security Adviser.
“Frankly, in my view, the regime’s terrorist activities are just the flip side of its nuclear weapons program. And any idea that this regime will stick to its commitments on anything is just a terrible hoax.” Bolton maintained.
Bolton said he was unaware that Pompeo was allegedly another target of the plan. But he added that he was not surprised.
“I think there is a considerable number of people who are vulnerable to these Iranian efforts. And unfortunately, I am afraid that we may know more,” he explained.
Pompeo, who was also CIA director under Trump, has received continued security since the end of the Trump administration because of threats from Iran, the source close to him said.
Former Ambassador Jim Jeffrey, who served as special representative for Syria and special envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS under Pompeo, said the former secretary “was instrumental in the Trump administration’s strategy and execution of Iran policy.” as” CIA director and secretary of state.
Jeffrey said that “given the history of Iranian assassinations in Europe and aborted ones here and there,” including the failed plot against the former Saudi foreign minister in a Washington city restaurant in 2011, “threats must be taken seriously.” .
Multiple current and former US officials continue to receive significant personal security due to threats from the Iranian IRGC, according to a source directly familiar with all of those protected. Security is provided by the US government, that source said.
There are multiple IRGC plots that remain under investigation, the source said, including threats against senior military leaders who could be seen as Soleimani’s equivalent.
The IRGC set the target for the assassination, but there are competing factions within the organization attempting various plots. The plot involving Bolton is just one element, the source noted.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Nasser Kanani said Wednesday that the “Islamic Republic of Iran strongly warns against any action against Iranian citizens under the pretext of these ridiculous accusations. And emphasizes that it reserves the right to take any action under international law to uphold the rights” of the government and citizens, state news outlet IRNA reported.
CNN’s Paul LeBlanc, Barbara Starr, Hamdi Alkhshali, Josh Campbell and Veronica Stracqualursi all contributed to this report.