It's frankly surprising this is a first during the Trump era, but here we are. Federal prosecutors today announced a woman named Yujing Zhang was apprehended while trying to enter Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump's Palm Beach mansion and resort, while carrying two Chinese passports, four cell phones, and some devices full of computer malware. Prosecutors said she lied to get into the building.
According to documents released today, Zhang showed up at Mar-a-Lago March 28 and told the Secret Service she was on her way to the club's pool. After passing the initial security checkpoint and taking a brief ride with club staff on a
Agents asked Zhang why she was at the resort. This time, she claimed she was there to attend a "United Nations Friendship Event." She flashed what looked liked a ticket printed with Chinese characters, which Secret Service agents said they were unable to read. But the president's security force noted that "no such event was scheduled to take place at Mar-a-Lago during this time period."
"Zhang was then transported off of Mar-a-Lago property for further interviewing," court documents state.
New: Chinese woman carrying four cellphones and computer equipment including a thumb drive containing malware has been charged with lying her way into Mar-a-Lago while Trump was there last weekend https://t.co/fRI6QztNe8— Jon Swaine (@jonswaine) April 2, 2019
As the Miami Herald noted, Zhang was likely on her way to attend one of two events advertised by Cindy Yang, the former Florida massage parlor owner who has posed for selfies with virtually every major Republican politician in
The Herald today noted Zhang claimed to have been meeting a man named Charles, who is likely Charles Lee, an event promoter tied to Yang. Lee runs a group called the United Nations Chinese Friendship Association. (Lee has denied knowing Yang, although they both promoted the same events at Mar-a-Lago, according to the Herald's reporting.)
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National security experts have already said they were worried Yang could in some way be used by Chinese intelligence operators. Mother Jones has reported she has ties to groups linked to the Chinese government.
Today's news is sure to push those worries into overdrive. According to an affidavit filed by a Secret Service agent, Zhang "became aggressive" when agents read her Miranda rights. Zhang also allegedly lied about her identity and claimed she had never told security personnel she was going to the pool. The Secret Service then searched her belongings and found four cell phones, a laptop, an external hard drive, and a USB thumb drive. Security agents scanned the thumb drive and claimed it was full of malware.
Zhang "falsely placed herself in the category of Mar-a-Lago club members, who are permitted past the initial security screening checkpoint and permitted inside the protective perimeter restrictive area to meet with Mar-a-Lago club management," court documents state. "Had Zhang not falsely portrayed herself as a club member seeking to visit the pool, and instead advised that she was there to attend the non-existent 'United Nations Friendship Event' between China and the United States, her access would have been declined by U.S. Secret Service at the preliminary inspection point."
Despite the fact that Zhang allegedly said she was there to use the pool, the Secret Service noted she did not bring a bathing suit.