April 04, 2019

Warren, Lynch Seek Inspector General Investigation Into Potential White House Interference in Secret Service Recommendations at Mar-a-Lago

Request Follows Recent Reports of Troubling Security Breach, and Questions about Access to the President

Washington, DC – United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Congressman Stephen F. Lynch (D-Mass.)Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, sent a letter to John V. Kelly, Acting Inspector General of the Department of Homeland Security, requesting an investigation into whether the White House is interfering with or overruling Secret Service recommendations about which guests at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club should have access to the President. The letter follows recent reports suggesting the President’s Florida resort may be a channel through which foreign adversaries are seeking to influence federal policy or obtain important national security information from the President and his allies.

This week, The Washington Post reported that Secret Service agents arrested a woman who deceived her way into the Mar-a-Lago club with two Chinese passports, a laptop, and a thumb drive containing malicious software. The woman reportedly claimed that she was instructed by a Chinese friend to travel from Shanghai to Florida specifically to “make contact with a member of Trump’s family.” This report follows last month’s news that Li “Cindy” Yang, a frequent visitor to the resort and a member of the  President’s Mar-a-Lago club, “created and operated a business that sold Chinese business executives access to President Donald Trump and his family at Mar-a-Lago.”

In their letter, Senator Warren and Congressman Lynch cited a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report—requested by Senator Warren in February 2017 and published in February 2019—which revealed that while the Secret Service is primarily responsible for establishing the physical security of the President, it is the White House’s Executive Office of the President (EOP) that “ultimately determines whether or not an individual should be granted access to the President.” The GAO report identified no shortcomings in the role and activities of the Secret Service, but reported that the EOP did not cooperate with the GAO investigation.

In their letter, the lawmakers wrote, “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?"

The lawmakers requested that Inspector General Kelly investigate this matter and specifically asked that the investigation assess whether the White House has overruled any recommendations by the Secret Service about which individuals should be granted access to the President at Mar-a-Lago or elsewhere.