Suspect in Mar-a-Lago security incident due in court
April 15, 2019
ablokhin/iStock(WASHINGTON) -- The Chinese woman at the center of a recent security breach at President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago country club is expected back in a Florida federal court Monday for a second pre-trial detention hearing.
Yujing Zhang, 33, is accused of lying her way through two security checkpoints at the "Winter White House" in late March before she was identified by a receptionist as not on the club's access list. A public defender argued in a previous detention hearing that Zhang believed she was attending an event that had been canceled without her knowledge, and she had been allowed in the club by accident.
Zhang, who previously told the court she was a consultant for a Chinese investment firm, allegedly was found with several electronic devices, including four cellphones and a thumb drive that the Secret Service said, according to a preliminary analysis, contained malware. Prosecutors said more electronics were found in her hotel room, among them multiple SIM cards and a device designed to detect hidden cameras.
Zhang is not charged with any espionage-related crimes, but prosecutors said last week that possibility was still under investigation. Some experts have told ABC News they're skeptical if what they said would be "terrible tradecraft" for a professional spy.
The president wasn't at the club at the time of the incident, instead visiting a nearby golf course.
The breach raised concerns about the security apparatus at Mar-a-Lago, and lawmakers asked the FBI to assess the situation.
"Mar-a-Lago presents a different protective environment because it's almost like you have a private residence with a public space," Don Mihalek, a former senior Secret Service agent and ABC News contributor, said after the incident. "Other presidential residences, they're pure residences. … Mar-a-Lago is both a private residence and a private club that allows members in."
In February 2019, the Government Accountability Office determined the Secret Service had put in place sufficient security measures to protect the president, but described a burdensome and expensive process in doing so.
After a briefing by the Secret Service days after the incident, Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., told reporters he was satisfied that the Secret Service "has done a pretty good job" and said he was "confident" in the president's security.
Zhang has been in custody since her arrest on March 30. A detention hearing last Monday was meant to decide whether she would stay in custody until trial, but the judge said that he needed more time to decide.
A criminal complaint filed against Zhang accuses her of one count of lying to federal agents and another count of entering a restricted area. Robert Adler, Zhang's federal defender, has declined to comment on the allegations against Zhang outside of court, and she has not entered a plea.
The Chinese government has not commented on the case except to say that Zhang has been provided with consular assistance, generally a routine matter when foreign nationals are involved in the U.S. legal system.
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