Ahead Of President Trump’s Bedminster Fundraiser, Schumer, Feinstein, Warner Push For Security Assessment Of Trump Properties, Including Mar-A-Lago And Bedminster
Jul 18 2019
WASHINGTON – Ahead of President Trump’s fundraiser at his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Senate Judiciary Committee Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA) today sent a letter to Secret Service Director James Murray amid growing concerns about the adequacy of visitor screening procedures at the president’s properties. The letter follows the March 30th, 2019 arrest of Yujing Zhang, the Chinese National apprehended at Mar-a-Lago while carrying malware, whose trial in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida is scheduled to begin this summer.
The senators note in their letter that on April 3rd, 2019, they requested that the FBI, in consultation with the Secret Service, determine the steps needed to detect and deter adversary governments or their agents from attempting to gain access to Mar-a-Lago to conduct electronic surveillance or acquire other materials.
Senators Schumer, Feinstein, and Warner also note that because the president’s properties are not currently considered “permanently protected facilities” like the White House, the Secret Service does not maintain visitor logs and has a substantially reduced physical security presence on days when the president is not present. They ask if additional security measures, including enhanced background checks of all visitors at all times, might reduce or help address potential national security risks at the president’s properties.
Text of Senators Schumer, Feinstein, and Warner’s letter to Director of the Secret Service James Murray is below and available here:
Mr. James M. Murray
U.S. Secret Service
950 H St. NW
Washington, DC 20223
Dear Director Murray:
We write regarding the recent security breach at Mar-a-Lago and reports that foreign intelligence services may be targeting the property for surveillance or influence operations.
On March 30th, Yujing Zhang, a Chinese national, was apprehended by the Secret Service with a thumb drive containing malicious software (malware) after she allegedly made false statements to bypass security at the President’s Mar-a-Lago club. It was revealed that Zhang, whose trial in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida is scheduled to begin in August, had in her hotel room a device for detecting hidden cameras along with over $8,000 in U.S. and Chinese currency. On July 9th, the federal judge hearing the case granted prosecutors’ request to use the Classified Information Procedures Act and file under seal classified information the disclosure of which “could cause serious damage to the national security of the United States.”
The apparent ease with which Zhang gained access to Mar-a-Lago has raised concerns regarding the adequacy of visitor screening procedures and other security measures at the club. We were troubled to learn that Mar-a-Lago employees—and not the Secret Service—determine who is granted access to the property, where secure areas are established for handling classified information during the President’s frequent visits. Additionally, because the property is not considered a permanently protected facility like the White House, the Secret Service does not maintain visitor logs and has a substantially reduced physical security presence on days when the President is not present.
On April 3rd, we requested that the FBI, in consultation with your office, determine the steps needed to detect and deter adversary governments or their agents from attempting to gain access to Mar-a-Lago or President Trump’s other properties in order to conduct electronic surveillance or acquire other materials. The possibility that the March 30th security breach at Mar-a-Lago could be connected to broader surveillance or influence operations targeting this property illustrates the need for Congress to understand the extent of the national security risks posed by the President’s frequent use of the club and his other properties.
We understand that while the Secret Service remains committed to its mission of ensuring the safety of our nation’s highest elected leaders, securing Mar-a-Lago has presented heightened security and budgetary challenges due to the semi-public nature of what remains the President’s private business. Accordingly, we request that you provide Congress with an assessment of whether additional security measures, including enhanced background checks of all visitors at all times, might reduce or help address potential national security risks at Mar-a-Lago, Bedminster, and the President’s other properties.
Thank you for your attention to this matter.