Why it matters: An unusual incident occurred at Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida over the weekend. A Chinese woman carrying a USB drive loaded with malware managed to briefly gain access to the club while the president was staying at the resort.
Court documents allege that 32-year-old Yujing Zhang approached secret service agents at a checkpoint outside the club on March 30, claiming she was a member and wanted to use the pool. She used the two Chinese passports she was carrying as identification, and "due to a potential language barrier issue," staff believed she was related to a club member with the same family name and let her in.
Zhang changed her story when she made it inside, telling a receptionist that she was there to attend a “United Nations Chinese American Association" event supposedly taking place that evening, but no such event was scheduled. She then claimed to have arrived early so she could “familiarize herself with the property and take pictures.”
This obviously made the receptionist suspicious, so Zhang was escorted off the property and taken to the local secret service office for questioning. She said someone called “Charles,” whom she only knew through a Chinese social media app, told her to travel from Shanghai to the non-existent UN event. The affidavit said Charles had also asked Zhang to speak to a member of Trump's family about Chinese-American economic relations.
In addition to the malware-loaded USB drive and two passports, Zhang was also carrying four mobile phones, a laptop, and an external hard drive, but no swimming gear. She also appeared to struggle with English at first, but "freely and without difficulty conversed" with agents later, becoming “verbally aggressive.”
While Trump was staying at Mar-a-Lago at the time, he was at his International Golf Club when Zhang arrived. It appears the pair were never close to each other at any point.
Zhang is charged with making false statements to federal agents and illegally entering a restricted area, for which she could face five years in prison. Her true motives remain unclear.
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