Trump club security breach accused had multiple devices

Sheri Evans
April 11, 2019

In this artist's sketch, Yujing Zhang, left, listens at a hearing Monday before U.S. Magistrate Judge William Matthewman in West Palm Beach, Fla.

A U.S. Secret Service agent testified at Yujing Zhang's Monday bond hearing that a fellow agent inserted a potentially "malicious" thumb drive she was carrying into his government computer.

James Mulvenon, an expert on Chinese espionage, called the incident "troubling", but said he was doubtful it was part of a greater plot, citing what would have been "terrible tradecraft" for an actual intelligence operation.

Zhang was discovered to have a thumb drive with malware, as well as a laptop, an external hard drive and four cell phones.

Zhang has been charged with making false statements to a federal officer and entering or remaining in a restricted building or grounds.

Prosecutors argued against her release, stating she's a flight risk. The port of entry was the Newark airport on a direct flight from Shanghai. She was carrying two Chinese passports, which she showed as identification. She wore a blue jail jumpsuit and her wrists were shackled. Zhang entered the United States legally on a tourist visa. After Secret Service agents were summoned, Zhang allegedly contradicted her earlier story by saying she had come early to the event to familiarize herself with the club and take photos. There was also $8,000 in cash and several credit and debit cards, according to the Washington Post. There, a Secret Service agent testified that the malware Zhang carried was capable of infecting a computer as soon as the thumb drive was plugged in. The agent, Ivanovich said, had never seen that happen before.

"He stated that he had to immediately stop the analysis and shut off his computer to halt the corruption", Mr. Ivanovich said. He said the malware's ultimate objective remains unknown. It suggests that the agent connected the drive to the same computer used for official Secret Service work.

But the head of a Palm Beach Gardens-based children's charity said an event had been scheduled at Mar-a-Lago on March 30. Her bail hearing was adjourned until next week and she'll be held until then.

Zhang's arrest has raised questions about Mar-a-Lago's security during the president's visits.

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There is no indication she ever got close to the President, who was in south Florida that afternoon and golfing nearby.

The Secret Service appeared to rely on Mar-a-Lago staff to determine whether people should be admitted through the security perimeter into the club when the President was there, allowing for the issue of whether Zhang was related to a club member to arise, according to Ivanovich's testimony.

A former USA government expert on Chinese intelligence operations, who asked not to be named while discussing sensitive information, said investigators would want to know "why, exactly, was she there?"

There are "a lot of questions that remain to be answered", he said.

Initially, Mar-a-Lago employees seemed to think she might be a guest of one of the club's members, whose last name also is Zhang.

Adler said wire records show Zhang paid $20,000 in February to Charles Lee, a Chinese national, for admission to the event.

But a man named Charles Lee ran the United Nations Chinese Friendship Association and was photographed at least twice with Yang, who also goes by the name Yang Li. She made news after it was learned she was promising Chinese business leaders that her consulting firm could get them access to Mar-a-Lago where they could mingle with the president.

Yang previously owned a spa where New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was charged with soliciting prostitution.

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