(NewsNation) — John Bolton decried attempts to kill American civilians on “American soil” in his first interview since being named the target of an alleged murder-for-hire plot orchestrated by an Iranian operative charged by the Justice Department Wednesday.
“This is not chatter on the internet. This is not even intelligence intercepted, here, there,” Bolton, the former Trump administration national security advisor, said in an interview with NewsNation’s Leland Vittert on the day charges were announced.
“It’s not just me, there are others who are affected. This happens to have risen to the level of a criminal complaint here,” Bolton said. “But I’m not the first and doubtless won’t be the last.”
Iranian national Shahram Poursafi, aka Mehdi Rezayi, 45, is currently wanted by the FBI on charges related to the plot, according to a complaint unsealed in Washington.
“One reason I do think the Justice Department made the correct decision to file this criminal complaint and to unseal it is to say to the Iranians, ‘we know what your game is,'” Bolton said. “And to inform the American people about what this government is trying to do on American soil. Just think about that: on American soil, killing American civilians.”
Prosecutors say the scheme started more than a year after Soleimani was killed in a targeted airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport in January 2020.
According to the DOJ statement, Poursafi attempted to pay individuals in the United States $300,000 to carry out the murder in Washington, D.C. or Maryland, including providing a work address.
Court documents show Poursafi told a “confidential human source” that it did not matter how the murder was carried out but would require video confirmation of the target’s death.
NewsNation confirmed former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was targeted in a “second job” and continues to receive 24-hour security following what the State Department said is a credible threat against him in connection to his role in the assassination of Soleimani.
In a speech this year, Iran’s president said martyrs would “take revenge” on Pompeo.
“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,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew G. Olsen of the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
In the interview with NewsNation, Bolton said he was not surprised to hear about the murder-for-hire plot against him.
“The Iranian government is untrustworthy, an enemy of the United States,” he said. “Its nuclear weapons program, its support for international terrorism, like Hezbollah and Hamas and the Hutus in Yemen, its own acts of state terrorism are all part of the same mix.”
National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan issued a statement, saying, “The Biden Administration will not waver 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.”
According to Executive Assistant Director Larissa L. Knapp of the FBI’s National Security Branch, Iran has a history of plotting to assassinate individuals in the U.S. it deems a threat.
“I think it’s long past the time when American policy ought to be that we favor the overthrowing of the regime in Tehran,” Bolton said. “Because there will not be peace and stability in the Middle East as long as that regime is there. And as long as they think Americans are weak enough to try to negotiate to get back into the nuclear deal, they’re going to continue to act this way.”
Details of the murder-for-hire plot come two days after negotiators seeking to revive the Iran nuclear accord in Vienna closed on a “final text” of an agreement, with parties now consulting in their capitals on whether to agree to it.
The 2015 deal granted Iran sanctions relief in exchange for tight curbs on its atomic program. Since the U.S. withdrew from the agreement under Trump, Iran has sped up its nuclear enrichment program.
Bolton has been among the most hawkish critics of the deal and efforts by the Biden administration to rejoin it.
“It was a terrible deal when it was made, was not going to stop Iran or even materially impede their progress toward nuclear weapons,” Bolton said. “And the idea we would go back into the deal now after making a year and a half worth of concessions to Iran, really it would be a tragic mistake for the United States to do that.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.