According to The Miami Herald, federal authorities are probing possible Chinese intelligence operations that spied on President Trump and Mar-a-Lago, his private club.
On Saturday, U.S. Secret Service agents arrested Yujing Zhang when she attempted to enter Mar-a-Lago with an assortment of electronic devices. One of these devices was a thumb drive with “malicious malware” on it.
The investigation has also focused on Li “Cindy” Yang, a South Florida massage parlor entrepreneur who promoted events at Mar-a-Lago. She targeted Chinese business executives who hoped to gain access to the Trump family.
Zhang was on her way to Mar-a-Lago for an event advertised by Yang when she was arrested for making a false statement to federal officers and entering restricted property. Zhang said that she wanted to use the club pool and she also hoped to discuss U.S.-China economic relations with a member of the Trump family.
Zhang has not been charged with any espionage crimes, but the arrest alarmed congressional Democrats who were concerned that the president’s business interests could be affected by foreign adversaries.
“The apparent ease with which Ms. Zhang gained access to the facility during the president’s weekend visit raises concerns about the system for screening visitors, including the reliance on determinations made by Mar-a-Lago employees,” stated a letter from Senate Intelligence Committee ranking member Mark Warner, D-Va., Senate Judiciary Committee ranking member Dianne Feinstein, D-Cal., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
“As the White House Communications Agency and Secret Service continue to establish several secure areas at Mar-a-Lago for handling classified information when the president travels there, these potential vulnerabilities have serious national security implications,” the letter said.
The letter also asks that the FBI and DNI worth with the Secret Service to figure out the necessary steps to “detect and deter adversary governments or their agents from attempting to gain access to or conduct electronic surveillance or acquire material at Mar-a-Lago or President Trump’s other properties.”
Yang has said she has ties with neither the Chinese government nor President Trump. A spokeswoman for Yang said: “Our client has stated that she does not know the woman who was arrested at Mar-a-Lago this weekend.”
Zhang may have been acting alone, but national security experts use her case as an example of why Mar-a-Lago is a unique security risk.
“The surprise would be if Chinese and Russian and other adversarial governments were not trying to get into Mar-a-Lago and the president’s other properties,” said Peter Harrell, an adjunct senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and former Obama administration State Department official.”There’s a huge trove of information available.”
The Secret Service regularly checks the property for bugs, but Trump is also known to speak off-the-cuff quite often.
“If you can get an eavesdropping advice planted in there, you could have access to what he’s saying and what people are saying to him,” he said. “Maybe the Chinese government is testing the vulnerabilities and security procedures here.”