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Warren calls for investigation of White House role in admitting guests at Mar-a-Lago

A woman was detained last weekend after she passed layers of security at President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort  in Palm Beach, Fla.
A woman was detained last weekend after she passed layers of security at President Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Fla. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is calling for an investigation of whether the White House is overruling Secret Service recommendations about which guests at President Trump’s Florida estate should have access to him during his frequent weekend stays.

The request to the inspector general of the Department of Homeland Security follows the arrest last weekend of a Chinese woman after she bypassed layers of security and gained access to the reception area of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and was found carrying two passports and a thumb drive containing malicious software, according to court documents.

In a letter, Warren, along with Rep. Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.), cited a Government Accountability Office report published last month that said the White House ultimately determines who sees the president after vetting by the Secret Service. The report said the White House did not respond to a request for comment on the GAO’s findings.

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“This refusal of the White House to cooperate with this investigation, combined with the arrest earlier this week and other allegations of easy access to the President and his family at Mar-a-Lago, mean that at least one key question remains open: is the White House appropriately reviewing and making the correct recommendations regarding which individuals are granted access to the President, at Mar-a-Lago and elsewhere?” Warren, a 2020 presidential contender, and Lynch, who chairs a House panel on national security, said in the letter.

President Trump on April 3 expressed confidence in the security at Mar-a-Lago, where a Chinese national allegedly entered the property with malicious software. (Video: The Washington Post)

The investigation request comes amid growing scrutiny of security and possible espionage efforts aimed at Mar-a-Lago, which Trump uses both as a presidential retreat and a moneymaking resort.

Hundreds of members, overnight guests and partygoing strangers stream into the president’s “Winter White House” every weekend, requiring the Secret Service to screen them against lists of approved visitors.

When a woman — identified as Yujing Zhang, a Chinese national — approached the club last week, security officials found that she was not on the approved list but let her in anyway after a Mar-a-Lago staff members suggested that she might be the relative of a club member. Secret Service agents later detained the woman in the club’s main building.

On Wednesday, Trump said that he had a brief meeting about the incident but that he was not concerned about potential espionage efforts aimed at Mar-a-Lago. He praised the Secret Service, as well as a receptionist who first noticed that something was amiss with Zhang.

“We have very good control,” Trump told reporters at the White House. “The person at the front desk did a very good job, to be honest with you.”

On Wednesday, three other leading Senate Democrats asked FBI Director Christopher A. Wray to investigate whether foreign spies could exploit weaknesses at Mar-a-Lago to steal classified information.

Zhang’s arrest “raises very serious questions regarding security vulnerabilities at Mar-a-Lago, which foreign intelligence services have reportedly targeted,” wrote Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (N.Y.); Sen. Dianne Feinstein (Calif.), the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee; and Sen. Mark R. Warner (Va.), vice chairman of the Intelligence Committee.