(NewsNation) – John Bolton, former Trump administration national security adviser and former ambassador to the United Nations, spoke to NewsNation’s Leland Vittert in the first interview since being named as the target of an alleged murder-for-hire plot orchestrated by an Iranian agent.
Here’s how the conversation went:
Q: Are we to believe that it was not a rogue spy in Tehran, but an attempt by the Iranian government to kill you?
Bolt: Well, you know, there are things I can’t talk about. But what we can talk about is what the Justice Department filed last week and was released from sealing this morning, which was information that they had accumulated over a long period of time , about the direct involvement of the Iranian government. And in fact, as they say, they believe the government’s action was prompted by the death of Qasem Soleimani, the leader of the Quds Force. So it’s some kind of document, it’s not internet chatter, it’s not even intercepted intelligence here and there. It’s a sustained effort here to gather all this information, which leads to the start of a criminal prosecution by the United States government, obviously, a very serious decision.
Q: You have long been a thorn in the side of Iranians. Are you surprised?
Bolt: Well, no, I’m not surprised. Look, the Iranian government is untrustworthy, an enemy of the United States and its nuclear weapons program, its support for international terrorism, such as Hezbollah and Hamas and the Hutus in Yemen, its own acts of State terrorism are all part of the same mix.
It is the government that is there. And I think they’ll do almost anything. This is why I think the Biden administration’s current efforts to roll back the 2015 Iran nuclear deal are so misguided.
The same people who say, “Oh, yes, of course, we’re going to abandon our nuclear weapons program” are trying to kill Americans on American soil. It’s not just me, there are others who are affected. It just so happens to have risen to the level of a criminal complaint here. But I’m not the first and probably won’t be the last.
Q: Do you feel the Biden administration is being forceful enough with the regime in Tehran right now in its response?
Bolt: Iran goes back on its aid to Hezbollah, killing Americans in Beirut in 1983. Its efforts to arm Shiite militias in Iraq and kill American soldiers and diplomats there. The Iranians have a long history of attacking Americans. And, listen, I think the time when American policy should be to favor the overthrow of the regime in Tehran is long gone, because there will be no peace and stability in the Middle East as long as this regime is there. . And as long as they think the Americans are weak enough to try to negotiate back into the nuclear deal, they will continue to act that way. I think one of the reasons the Department of Justice made the right decision to file this criminal complaint and unseal it is to tell the Iranians, ‘We know what your game is’ and to inform the American people what this government is trying to do. do on American soil. Think about it: on American soil, killing American civilians. It’s really, it’s, it’s something that should make people say, “Why are we negotiating with them about nuclear weapons?
Q: Why are we negotiating with Iran on nuclear weapons?
Bolt: Well I wouldn’t, and I think that’s why in the Trump administration the president made the right decision to pull out of the Iran nuclear deal of 2015. It was a deal terrible when it was concluded, it was not going to stop Iran or even materially impede its progress towards nuclear weapons. And the idea that we’re going back to the deal now after making a year and a half of concessions to Iran, it would really be a tragic mistake for the United States to do that.
Q: That doesn’t seem to bother you in the least.
Bolt: All I can say is that President Biden authorized the Secret Service to give me essentially the same protection I had when I was National Security Advisor, and I thank him for that. And in the hands of the Secret Service, I think I’m as safe as can be.
Q: Did this plot take place under the Trump administration?
Bolt: Well, actually it started under the Trump administration, and maybe not just as far as I’m concerned. There are a lot of things I don’t know and couldn’t talk about. But of other Americans who might be under threat, the FBI has a process called “Duty to Warn,” which outlines the circumstances under which they tell private U.S. citizens they face foreign threats. So my first contact with the office on this, which was ongoing, but was in early 2020, under the Trump administration. So there was information about this Iranian threat even at the time.
Q: President Trump ordered the killing of Qasem Soleimani after the attacks on the US Embassy in Iraq by Iran-backed militias. Clear patterns of violence-to-violence reaction? Could you give us an idea of what that reaction might look like or under a different administration against Iran, something that you would have advised?
Bolt: Well, I felt that after pulling out of the nuclear deal and imposing significant economic sanctions on Iran, what we call the maximum pressure campaign, that the next logical step for the government of the United States, for its own safety and that of its friends and allies in the Middle East, Israel, the Arabs of the Gulf, had to support the opposition to the regime in Tehran. Because this revolutionary regime has not deviated from its 1979 objectives. It is a threat to its neighbours, the Arab States. It is a threat to Israel. It is a threat to the United States. As long as it’s there, it’s going to be a threat. The nuclear threat is obviously the most acute, but in the region, the terrorist threat is the threat they face on a daily basis, and the regime is not going to change. It is inherent in the regime’s ideology. And that’s what we have to recognize. We haven’t done that yet. And the Biden administration hasn’t acknowledged it to the point, they’re still trying to get back into the nuclear deal, which would be a terrible strategic mistake for the United States.
Q: If there is no military response or some type of response beyond what we have seen from the Biden administration to this news that has been made public, how will the Ayatollah and the IRGC will they interpret this?
Bolt: Well, I hope releasing this information today will dissuade Iran from saying “we understand what you are doing”.
Q: Do you believe this will be or is the only language Iranians will understand by force in response to this?
Bolt: Well, my position on this has been clear for a long time: the only way to solve the problem of the regime in Tehran today is to get rid of the regime. And deterrence. Deterrence goes no further. So I’ve been clear on that as a private citizen and in my official capacity as well.