Report: FBI Investigating Alleged Chinese Intel Activity At Mar-a-Lago

|
April 3, 2019 5:07 p.m.
JOIN TPM FOR JUST $1

The arrest of a Chinese woman allegedly carrying malware into Mar-a-Lago on Saturday has “turbo-charged” an FBI counterintelligence probe into allegations of Chinese spy activity at Trump’s Florida clubhouse, the Miami Herald reports.

The investigation is reportedly focusing on whether a Saturday attempt by Yujing Zhang to enter Mar-a-Lago constituted an espionage effort.

Zhang’s arrest came after weeks of news coverage of south Florida massage mogul Cindy Yang, who was allegedly peddling access to Trump and his family while maintaining ties to organizations linked to the Chinese government.

The Herald reports that the FBI investigation existed before allegations emerged of Yang selling access.

Zhang – the alleged malware courier – allegedly lied to Secret Service agents during her entry attempt, and was charged with one count of illegal entry and one count of false statements to a federal official.

In addition to two Chinese passports, four cellphones, a laptop computer, and an external hard drive, Zhang allegedly had a thumb drive with malware on it during her entry attempt.

While speaking to federal agents, Zhang allegedly claimed she was headed to an event hosted by the United Nations Chinese Friendship Association. An event by the organization had previously been scheduled for the day Zhang attempted to enter Mar-a-Lago, but was cancelled following a Miami Herald report. Yang has reportedly promoted the organization.

A Yang spokeswoman told TPM that she does not know Zhang.

“Neither the firm or our client have been contacted at this time,” the spokeswoman added, after being asked if investigators had reached out.

The identity of alleged malware courier Zhang remains a mystery. Court documents state that she was born in 1986, and she purportedly told investigators that she flew to the United States from Shanghai.

The Herald reported that Zhang’s identity is a focus of the counterintelligence investigation.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesman was asked about the Zhang arrest on Wednesday.

“I’m not aware of that,” the spokesman said.

The Yang story began in an unlikely way, with the February charging of New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft in a South Florida prostitution sting.

The massage parlor where Kraft was allegedly recorded receiving a sex act – the Orchids of Asia spa – was founded by Yang. That led to a Miami Herald investigation which reported on a series of spas she and family members own across South Florida, where sexual services are allegedly available.

At the same time, the spa mogul was also hobnobbing with GOP notables at Mar-a-Lago, while also contributing thousands of dollars to the Republican Party.

In an April 3 letter to FBI director Chris Wray, Sens. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Mark Warner (D-VA) wrote to request that the bureau “assess the risks at Mar-a-Lago” created by the presence of classified information at the president’s Florida clubhouse. House Oversight Committee chairman Elijah Cummings (D-MD) demanded a briefing from the Secret Service on Mar-a-Lago security.

In a Tuesday statement, the Secret Service said that it “does not determine who is invited or welcome at Mar-a-Lago; this is the responsibility of the host entity.”

This article has been updated

Comments
Masthead Masthead
Editor & Publisher:
Executive Editor:
Managing Editor:
Senior Editor:
Special Projects Editor:
Investigations Desk:
Reporter:
Senior Newswriters:
Newswriters:
Editor at Large:
General Manager & General Counsel:
Executive Publisher:
Head of Product:
Director of Technology:
Publishing Associate:
Front-End Developer:
Senior Designer: