Concerns for physical safety and cybersecurity made for a very strange episode at President Donald Trump's private leisure resort in Palm Beach.
A 32-year-old woman from China was arrested after carrying four cellphones and a thumb drive infected with malware into Mar-a-Lago and giving replies to questions that were not credible, federal officials said.
By Friday, the administration's messaging was conflicted. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it “tells the American people the threat that China poses, the effort they’re making here inside the United States, not only against government officials, but more broadly.”
Only a day earlier, Trump said when asked about the prospect of international mischief at his Palm Beach digs: "I'm not concerned at all. We have very good control. I think that was just a fluke situation."
Trump's insistence on making this property — trafficked by guests and visitors — into a second White House keeps posing challenges. In an unusual statement the Secret Service saw fit to make clear that Mar-a-Lago staff, not they, let the alleged intruder Yujing Zhang on the premises.
Earlier the buzz was about another Chinese national in Florida, Cindy Yang. According to published reports, she founded a consulting firm aimed at Chinese executives boasting of access to the president, his family and others at Mar-a-Lago — which she told ABC News she has visited only as a guest or for charity fundraisers.
This might sound trivial if not for earlier alarms about the way the Trump administration treats security matters.
Shortly after taking office, the president sat in an open dining area at the resort discussing a North Korean missile test launch with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe as club members watched. One of the diners took photos and posted them online.
At the White House in May 2017, Trump prattled to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov about classified information, reportedly obtained from Israel, concerning ISIS bombs on planes.
Last month, Tricia Newbold, a manager in the White House personnel security office, told the House Committee on Oversight and Reform that higher-ups gave security clearances to at least 25 people initially rejected for "disqualifying issues."
Such issues always become charged.
Hillary Clinton, while secretary of state, worked off a private email server. Without charging a crime, the FBI found she'd been "extremely careless" — a negative mark in her second failed presidential campaign.
Now the unique situation of presidential daughter Ivanka Trump and her husband Jared Kushner acting as White House advisers prompts questions about their own back channels overseas and their use of private internet servers.
Last June, reluctant FBI officials were forced to turn over thousands of documents to the GOP-run House, including details about how it deploys informants and other sensitive material. The political purpose of the search was to impugn the special counsel's Russia probe.
Previously the Secret Service drew fire from legislators over incidents that included people scaling the White House fence and being chased down inside the grounds. That was under President Barack Obama.
But don’t expect to see big walls built around Mar-a-Lago or other Trump resorts — not as long as paying customers and special guests come and go while selected public employees serve the president's special needs.