Spy vs. POTUS
On Saturday, while President Trump was golfing four miles away, a Chinese national named Yujing Zhang talked her way into Mar-a-Lago, Trump's private club in Florida, with two passports, four cellphones, and a thumb drive infected with "malicious software." She told the Secret Service she was going to use the pool, even though she didn't have a swimsuit; a Mar-a-Lago staffer told the Secret Service to let her in because a member has the same last name. Asked about this breach on Wednesday, Trump said he's "not concerned at all."
"We have very good control," Trump added. "I think that was just a fluke situation."
The FBI is apparently less sanguine. Zhang's breach "turbo-charged" a federal counterintelligence investigation into Chinese or other nations targeting Trump and Mar-a-Lago, the Miami Herald reported Wednesday. The Secret Service has two tasks at Trump's moneymaking vacation hangout, The Washington Post notes: Protecting the president, and keeping the hundreds of members and paying or invited guests happy. Mar-a-Lago staff, not the Secret Service, decides who's allowed into the resort, and agents say they have no system to track who enters or speaks with Trump.
"The president has no idea who most of the people around him at the club are," a White House official tells the Post. "You pay and you get in." This setup is a potential gold mine for foreign intelligence, even if no spy ever made contact with Trump, the Post adds. "It could be bugged, or its computers hacked, if someone could get in the door."
"The surprise would be if Chinese and Russian and other adversarial governments were not trying to get into Mar-a-Lago and the president's other properties," Peter Harrell at the Center for a New American Security tells the Miami Herald. But authorities aren't sure about Zhang's motives. The electronics and malware are suspicious, but it's also possible she believed she was invited, lured to Mar-a-Lago by advertisements promising access to Trump and his family from Trump donor and day spa owner Li "Cindy" Yang.