PALM BEACH, Fla. – If President Donald Trump can close a trade agreement with China, he has raised the idea of signing the agreement with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Mar-a-Lago, where the two leaders also met in 2017.
But the recent arrest of a Chinese woman who, according to the Secret Service, brought malicious software on a USB memory device to Mar-a-Lago, has rekindled questions about whether Trump's private club is suitable for the international summit.
The Secret Service said Yujing Zhang was allowed to enter Mar-a-Lago from a security checkpoint across the street on March 30, after a club manager said he should be allowed access. Zhang was escorted to the grounds of Mar-a-Lago, but according to a criminal complaint she was arrested after a receptionist determined she was not on an access list for the club.
When Zhang was arrested, the Secret Service said he found four cell phones, a laptop, an external hard drive and a USB stick that, according to the complaint, "contained malicious malware." One accusation Friday accused Zhang of illegally entering a restricted area. Area and lying to federal authorities, but did not include any charges related to espionage.
Trump was in town the weekend of the incident, but he was playing golf at his nearby Trump International Golf Club when Zhang appeared in Mar-a-Lago.
Later, the president described the incident as "coincidental" and said he was not worried about possible Chinese espionage.
"No, I'm not worried at all," Trump told reporters last week. "I have – we have very good control, we have extremely well, and it is improving, and cyber – frankly, what we are doing with cyber is a story in itself."
The representative of the USA UU Ted Deutch, a Democrat from Florida, said the Zhang incident underscores his criticism of Trump for conducting public business in his private club.
"To begin with, it is not a secure facility and when it has the management of Mar-a-Lago fighting with the Secret Service, this is not a place that should host international summits," said Deutch. "The most important thing is that the president of the United States needs to listen to the Secret Service and let them do their job to protect him and the country instead of deferring the people he employs in his club."
US Representative Val Demings, D-Fla., Member of the Intelligence Committee of the House of Representatives, said that Trump "does not take seriously the real and serious threats to our security." The lax security in Mar-a-Lago seems to reflect the president's position on national security in general: he simply does not understand it and he does not listen to anyone who does. "
United States Representative Brian Mast, R-Fla., Agreed that the Zhang incident is a cause for concern. But Mast said he is comfortable with Trump leading presidential affairs in Mar-a-Lago.
"Every time there is a gap, there must be a concern." When you are talking, certainly, the president of the United States of America, there is zero tolerance, "said Mast, who said that security is much stricter in Mar-a -Lago than when he visited before Trump took office.
When asked if he had any concerns about a Trump-Xi summit there, Mast said: "No. Absolutely … If that is the place you choose, you will be well insured by our Secret Service."
It is unlikely that the government's computer systems in Mar-a-Lago will be threatened by malware on a USB stick, said Gregory Hall of the Cybersecurity Center at the University of West Florida.
"The government of the United States, the Department of State, the Department of Defense, all these agencies have very rigorous protection standards in their networks," Hall said. "What probably would have put risk, once again, speculation, is physical access to computers for Mar-a-Lago as a tourist center, as a business."
The close security seems to be at odds with the atmosphere that Trump intends to create in Mar-a-Lago, said attorney Anne Weismann of Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, which has sued the Trump administration to try to gain access to the visitor records in the White House and Mar-a-Lago.
"A lot of people are paying a lot of money for membership fees and I think part of what they are getting and part of what the president, I think, supports as an incentive is the ability to have access, and the Secret Service's job is to limit the access to the president, control that access, and I just do not think it's consistent with the way the president wants to use Mar-a-Lago, "said Weismann.
Trump tweeted in February that he was optimistic about the trade talks with China and would like to sign an agreement in Palm Beach.
"Assuming that both parties make further progress, we will be planning a Summit for President Xi and me, in Mar-a-Lago, to conclude an agreement," Trump wrote on Twitter.
The negotiations seemed to have problems later, but Trump told reporters at the White House last week that he was still optimistic and hoped to know in early May if an agreement can be reached.
"And I hope to see President Xi, he will be here And if we have an agreement, then we're going to have a summit, if we do not have an agreement, we're not going to have a summit, but there's a good chance we'll have the summit," Trump said.
Trump received Xi in Mar-a-Lago in April 2017. He received the Japanese Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, in Mar-a-Lago, in 2017 and 2018, and met with the heads of several Caribbean nations in Mar-a -Lago last month.
During Trump's first meeting with Abe in February 2017, members and guests of Mar-a-Lago took photographs and made posts on social networks as heads of state and their aides piled into a terrace of the club's dining room after of North Korea testing a nuclear missile. .
Critics accused Trump of being negligent with national security.
"There is no excuse to let out an international crisis in front of a group of members of the country club like the dinner theater," wrote Nancy Pelosi, who was the minority leader of the House at that time.
The White House said at that time that no classified material was discussed in the dining room and that the president was informed in a safe room.
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