Dems Ratchet Up Probe Into Mar-a-Lago Security Breach

Geraldine Edwards
April 7, 2019

Miami Times reported Wednesday that federal investigators have launched a counterintelligence investigation into possible espionage efforts by Chinese interests to target President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago club.

The criminal complaint said after Zhang was detained, Secret Service agents found she had multiple electronic devices and a preliminary investigation found malware on a thumb drive.

Secret Service agents screen Mar-a-Lago visitors for prohibited items, but it's up to the club to decide who can enter the property, the agency said in a statement after the breach.

According to CNN's Erin Burnett, security at Mar-a Lago allowed Zhang to enter the property because of a misunderstanding due to a language barrier.

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A federal prosecutor called Zhang "an extreme risk of flight" and said she had no ties to the U.S. or Palm Beach area, according to audio of her court hearing Monday, obtained by CNN.

The group, which is not affiliated with the United Nations, has promoted the Chinese Communist Party, and advertised events at Mar-a-Lago as ways for Chinese businessmen to participate in President Xi Jinping's so-called business diplomacy agenda - essentially, an effort to have Chinese executives make friends with important people overseas. On another occasion, he and Japanese Prime Minster Shinzo Abe sat on an outdoor patio, as guests dined nearby, and reviewed options for responding to a North Korean ballistic test. Her activities "could permit adversary governments or their agents access to these same politicians to acquire potential material for blackmail or other even more nefarious purposes", they wrote in their letter to Wray, director of national intelligence Daniel Coats and Secret Service Director Randolph Alles. "I think it's very, very, very, very important that the president be protected". No, I'm not concerned at all.

Last Saturday, Zhang changed her story at the indoor reception desk, saying she was there a little early to take photos, but had come to attend a "United Nations Friendship Event" between China and the US, which didn't exist.

"No, I'm not concerned at all", Trump said.

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"We will see what happened, where she is from, who she is, but the end result is they were able to get her", Trump said at a White House meeting with senior military leaders.

The Secret Service has tried to blame Mar-a-Lago for the incident, saying that the club is responsible for who is admitted.

Potential interest from China in Mar-a-Lago has drawn particular scrutiny.

Congressional Democrats raised questions on Wednesday about security at the club but Trump brushed off the concerns, calling the incident a "fluke" and praising the Secret Service.

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Rep. Lynch, along with Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren, sent a letter to Homeland Security Acting Inspector General John Kelly, requesting that the watchdog "review the vetting processes" by federal officials at Mar-a-Lago and to probe whether the White House has at all interfered.

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