A Chinese national was arrested after she illegally entered President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida March 30 and was found to be carrying a thumb drive containing malware as well as a laptop, a “hard drive type” device and four cell phones.
Yujing Zhang allegedly gained access to the property, claiming to be attending a United Nations Chinese American Association event, which the Miami Herald said was hawked by Li “Cindy” Lang. Lang owns a company that promises access to President Trump and who was recently in the news after New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was arrested for soliciting prostitution in a massage parlor she once owned.
After being removed and detained by Secret Service agents, Zhang said she’d been invited to the event via WeChat by her friend “Charles” and was to “attempt to speak with a member of the President's family about Chinese and American foreign economic relations."
No such event was being held at Mar-a-Lago at the time, although an event promoter named Charles Lee does work with the United Nations Chinese Friendship Association, the Washington Post reported, and also promotes Yang’s events.
“On March 30, 2019, physical screening was conducted by the Secret Service once Mar-a-Lago staff determined an individual was to be granted access to the property,” the Secret Service said in a statement, “After the first physical screening, Mar-a-Lago staff transported the individual by a shuttle to the next screening checkpoint. Individuals are prohibited from disembarking the shuttle between screenings and the route is monitored by Secret Service personnel.”
Zhang ultimately was arrested and charged with two counts - one for making a false statement to a federal officer and the other for entering restricted property.
“If someone can talk their way into Mar-a-Lago, then no location is really secure,” said David Ginsburg, vice president of marketing at Cavirin. “Therefore, protection needs to be on the infrastructure side, which includes, where required, locking down access from desktops to USB drives.
This is not the first time security at Mar-a-Lago has been scrutinized. Questions arose early in the Trump administration about security at Mar-a-Lago after the president began using the property, which he refers to as the Southern White House, to host world leaders. Less than a month after Trump took office, he and Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe were seen huddled around the dinner table in the middle of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago restaurant discussing North Korea’s missile test in full view of other patrons – and using cell phone flashlights to illuminate documents in the dimly lit room.
The Secret Service said Mar-a-Lago's management is responsible for entry security. "While the Secret Service does not determine who is permitted to enter the club, our agents and officers conduct physical screenings to ensure no prohibited items are allowed onto the property," according to the Secret Service's statement. “With the exception of certain permanently protected facilities, such as the White House, the practice used at Mar-a-Lago is no different than that long-used at any other site temporarily visited by the President or other Secret Service protectees."
The security practices of the White House have come under closer scrutiny recently after a whistleblower told the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that the administration compelled security clearances for 25 individuals previously denied by career officials, a whistleblower has told the House Committee on Oversight and Reform. Lawmakers have also raised questions about the security of the president’s personal smart phone.