A Chinese national was arrested Saturday after attempting to gain access into President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club in West Palm Beach with a flash drive containing malicious software, according to the U.S. Secret Service.
By: Harry Cherry
The woman, Yujing Zhang, was arrested early Saturday afternoon by a Secret Service agent and was subsequently charged with multiple federal crimes, including making false statements to investigators.
Mrs. Zhang presented two Chinese passports to Secret Service agents as well as club officials and said that she wanted to go to the pool. Club receptionists initially were unable to locate her name on a list of members, however since someone with the same last name is a member at the club, she was briefly allowed to proceed towards the pool.
Mar-a-Lago staff members, however, became wary after Mrs. Zhang started acting suspiciously. She initially told staff members that she was at Mar-a-Lago for an event ran an organization called the United Nations Chinese American Association, however, a receptionist for the club found no such event on the club’s schedule.
The receptionist then proceeded to page Secret Service agents who escorted Mrs. Zhang away from Mar-a-Lago. She was then questioned by the Secret Service and was subsequently detained after she became “verbally aggressive” when an agent suggested that she unlawfully attempted to enter Mar-a-Lago, according to a criminal complaint.
Later, Ms. Zhang told investigators that someone in China named Charles, who officials were unable to contact because she only communicated with him once via the Chinese messaging app WeChat, told her to take a flight from China to Palm Beach International Airport in order to attend the alleged event with the hope of talking to someone in Mr. Trump’s family about the economic relationship between Washington and Beijing.
Secret Service agents found four cellphones, one laptop, an external hard drive, and a flash drive all in Mrs. Zhang’s possession at the time of her arrest.
“The Secret Service does not determine who is invited or welcome at Mar-a-Lago; this is the responsibility of the host entity,” the Secret Service said Tuesday in a statement. “The Mar-a-Lago club management determines which members and guests are granted access to the property.”
“This access does not afford an individual proximity to the President or other Secret Service protectees,” the agency mandated with protecting the President and his family continued. “In such instances, additional screening and security measures are employed.”
“It’s a hard position for Secret Service to be in to potentially deny a million-dollar committee member, Don Mihalek, the Executive Vice President of the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Associations, told the New York Times. “It puts Secret Service in a very difficult position because we don’t know who are members and who aren’t.”
“You’re depending on them to say this is an employee and this isn’t an employee. We work off a list of names,” Mr. Mihalek continued. “Our priority is, are you coming in with explosives or not.”
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