Senate Democrats have begun taking steps to investigate whether Donald Trump’s “Winter White House” at Mar-a-Lago presents a national security risk, after a Chinese national allegedly lied her way into the president’s palatial estate, only to be caught with a bag full of electronics, including a thumb drive containing malware.
In a letter obtained by the Washington Post and addressed to FBI Director Christopher Wray, a group of high ranking Democratic Senators write that the “incident raises very serious questions regarding security vulnerabilities at Mar-a-Lago, which foreign intelligence services have reportedly targeted.”
According to a criminal complaint filed earlier this week, the Secret Service alleges that Yujing Zhang talked her way into Trump’s club, initially claiming to be there to use the pool, before telling an employee she was looking for a “United Nations Chinese American Association” event—which didn’t exist. After she’d been arrested and detained, Zhang:
...claimed her Chinese friend “Charles’’ told her to travel from Shanghai, China to Palm Beach, Florida to attend this event and attempt to speak with a members of the President’s family about Chinese and American foreign economic relations.
Notably, Zhang was caught carrying four cell phones, a laptop, an external hard drive, and a flash drive which the Secret Service said “contained malicious malware.”
This incident is just the latest one to has called the security at Mar-a-Lago into question; in 2017, random club members were on hand to watch—and take pictures of—Trump and Japanese Prime Minister react in real-time to a North Korean launch of a Pukguksong-2 intercontinental ballistic missile. Members have also been able to take chummy photographs with the man tasked with carrying the president’s “nuclear football,” which contains the launch codes for America’s atomic weaponry.
For its part, the Secret Service has been perfectly willing to throw Mar-a-Lago’s private staff under the bus, saying in a statement released Tuesday that “the Secret Service does not determine who is invited or welcome at Mar-a-Lago; this is the responsibility of the host entity.”
I have reached out to the Department of Justice for its comment on the Senate Democrats’ letter, and will update this story if they respond.
In the meantime, security risk or not, President Trump will almost certainly continue to frequent Mar a Lago, where he can glad-hand with sketchy donors and delegate official government policy decisions to his rich private sector pals.