Outside of President Donald Trump’s endlessly belligerent behavior, his ascent to the White House continues to present the United States with numerous unique security problems. New details have now emerged possibly further suggesting that a Chinese woman named Yujing Zhang who trespassed at Trump’s Florida Mar-a-Lago resort last month is a spy, although she has not yet been charged with espionage-related offenses.
In addition to the thumb drive with malware and Chinese passports that she had on her person when apprehended at the resort, Zhang apparently had a signal detector that can detect hidden cameras, another cell phone, nine more USB drives, and five SIM cards back in a local hotel room, according to federal prosecutors. Although she hasn’t faced formal espionage allegations, the FBI is investigating her case as part of an effort to uncover Chinese spying. Federal prosecutors have come down hard on the woman, asserting that Zhang “lies to everyone she encounters” in a court hearing this Monday in which they argued she’s a flight risk and so should be detained accordingly.
So far, she has been charged with making false statements to federal authorities and entering a restricted area without authorization. She made it into Mar-a-Lago by lying to various guards and monitors along the way, claiming everything from being on her way to visit the resort’s pool as a believed family member of a club member to being there for United Nations events that didn’t exist. Once she was apprehended and under questioning, she claimed to agents that a Chinese friend named “Charles” had sent her to the resort to discuss America’s economic relationship with China with the president and his family.
Interestingly enough, Trump has ensured recently that U.S.-China relations have been at the top of the globe’s agenda. He sparked a trade war with the economic rival via punitive tariffs, and further impositions were eventually paused to allow negotiators to reach a trade deal. There’s been talk of the president meeting soon with Chinese President Xi Jinping to sign such a deal, but that’s been pushed back, possibly even to June.
It’s not the first time that authorities have raised concerns about the security situation at Mar-a-Lago, which the president often visits. Way back towards the beginning of his administration, he dealt right in the midst of resort guests with a North Korean missile launch, potentially exposing secrets to those who should have no access. More recently, House Democrats have raised concern about the access to Mar-a-Lago that Li “Cindy” Yang has enjoyed, the Chinese woman who marketed public relations services to Chinese businesspeople that included getting them close to the president and his family. She was successful, and there are photos available of her with the president and clients with the president’s family.
Neither is the Zhang case the first time that domestic GOP interests have been roped into an international spying scandal in general. Russian agent Maria Butina pleaded guilty to espionage charges over efforts to align the Kremlin with the National Rifle Association (NRA), which she carried out via a years-long joint campaign with Kremlin official Alexander Torshin to court the organization.
The NRA has unsurprisingly denied wrongdoing; and despite ongoing concern, Trump has similarly dismissed the significance of the Zhang case, calling it a “fluke situation.”
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