Max Blumenthal is no stranger to butting heads with the powers at be. The New York Times Best Selling Author has made his career tracking everything from the rise of the GOP to the Human Rights situation in Israel.
His “speaking truth to power” approach to journalism has made him the ire of many in the U.S government, but in late October that disapproval may have crossed the line into retaliation.
On October 25th, Blumenthal was awoken in the early morning, still in his pajamas to find a squad of police officers outside his house, in the style of SWAT raid, threatening to break the door down.
Blumenthal was promptly whisked off in a police van and brought to the DC central booking jail, where he spent the next two days in custody. Blumenthal says he was shackled, refused access to a lawyer, and denied the ability to make a phone call.
In the end, Blumenthal learned that the crime which warranted the raid on his home was a misdemeanor assault.
The charges stem from a protest which had happened over the summer outside of the Venezulan Embassy, which Blumenthal was reporting on.
After the Trump administration forced Venezulan diplomats to leave the country, the anti-war group Code Pink began to occupy the building at the request of the Venezulan government.
This put them at odds with protestors who supported the self-declared and U.S backed Venezulan head of state, Juan Guaidó. The protestors demanded activists cede the building to Guaidó’s administration and a standoff occured when they refused.
During this standoff one of the pro-Guaidó supporters guarding the back entrance to the building claims she was kicked in the stomach by two men–one of whom she later identified to police as being Max Blumenthal.
The police investigated her complaint, but the prosecutor decided there wasn’t enough evidence to show a crime had occurred.
This changed in October after Blumenthal’s website The Grayzone published an article revealing how the U.S government had diverted $41.9 million in aid money that was supposed to go to Latin America in order to pay the salaries of Guaidó’s lobbying team.
Literally hours after the article was published the five month old charges were brought back and police were ordered to Blumenthal’s house to arrest him.
“Frankly, this arrest seems quite shady to me, given Max’s strenuous denial and the fact that the arrest happened five months after the alleged incident in question.” Trevor Timm of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, told Bandr when asked for a comment on the incident. ”The description of Max’s treatment in jail is also appalling. The authorities should release any evidence they have related to the incident immediately. If this was a retaliatory arrest, it’s hard to tell at this point if it was done as a result of Max’s job as a reporter or any direct action he may or may not have been involved in. But regardless, anytime a journalist is arrested and they allege retaliation, it is a cause for serious concern.”
The National Lawyers Guild also released a statement showing their condemnation over the charges Blumenthal faces. “We join Blumenthal in noting that his arrest took place hours after The Grayzone issued a report on USAID funding to lobbyists for the Venezuelan opposition. It also appears to be a form of retaliation practiced against both embassy protection activists and critical journalists.”
Blumenthal himself has been speaking at length regarding his arrest and its broader implications on journalists.
“I am firmly convinced that this case is part of a wider campaign of political persecution using the legal system to shut down our factual investigative journalism about the coup against Venezuela and the wider policy of economic warfare and regime change waged by the Trump administration,” Blumenthal said.
The charges are still in their early stages. Few know if they make it to trial or if the state will give up their prosecution of Blumenthal.
No matter what happens, the arrest has already raised concern among journalists over its implications on the future of the free press .