The Secret Service released a statement on April 2, 2019, responding to the report that a woman was able to get past checkpoints at Mar-a-Lago on Saturday, March 30, 2019, before being stopped by reception and detained by the Secret Service.
The Palm Beach, Florida, golf club is owned by President Donald Trump, who was golfing at another one of his clubs nearby at the time. However, the First Lady Melania Trump and others were present at Mar-a-Lago, according to the Miami Herald.
"The Secret Service does not determine who is invited or welcome at Mar-a-Lago; this is the responsibility of the host entity," the agency said in a statement. "The Mar-a-Lago club management determines which members and guests are granted access to the property. This access does not afford an individual proximity to the President or other Secret Service protectees."
President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Tump.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Gabriela Garcia)
According to the criminal complaint filed by Secret Service agent Samuel Ivanovich, the woman Yujing Zhang, a Chinese national, allegedly told a Secret Service agent that she was going to the pool. Mar-a-Lago staff were then charged with confirming whether she was an authorized guest.
Zhang eventually was screened and made her way to the reception desk, where she allegedly said she was going to an event that was not scheduled at Mar-a-Lago. The receptionist flagged this and according to the complaint, Zhang was taken offsite and questioned by the Secret Service.
Federal prosecutors charged Zhang with making false statements to federal agents and entering a restricted area — the complaint details the multiple signs identifying the area as "Restricted Building or Grounds,'' and the signs reportedly state that "Persons entering without lawful authority are subject to arrest and prosecution."
She was carrying a laptop, four phones, an "external hard drive type device," and a thumb drive. According to court documents a preliminary check showed the thumb drive contained "malicious malware."
Though she was screened for — and was not carrying any — items that could have caused physical harm, the event raised questions about security at Mar-a-Lago, as the club is open to members even when the president is in residence.
"It's a hard position for Secret Service to be in to potentially deny a million-dollar committee member," Don Mihalek, the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association's executive vice president, told The New York Times. "It puts Secret Service in a very difficult position because we don't know who are members and who aren't."
The Secret Service, which is charged with the protection of the president and first family, said that "additional screening and security measures are employed," when guests are in close proximity to the president.
But they also stated that "the practice used at Mar-a-Lago is no different than that long-used at any other site temporarily visited by the President or other Secret Service protectees." It does not have the same permanent security apparatus as the White House.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
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