During the 2018 midterm elections, many Democrats across the country argued that they would be better positioned than their Republican rivals to protect Americans’ health insurance provided under the Affordable Care Act.
The 2018 election cycle may be over now, but the West Virginia Democratic Party continues to make that argument.
In fact, the issue gained new relevance in March 2019 when the Trump administration said it has decided to seek the law’s full repeal in an ongoing court case. (This is the same lawsuit that West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey signed on to, as we’ve noted.)
In an April 1 tweet, the state party said that President Donald Trump “is threatening to overturn the entire Affordable Care Act that provided over 200,000 West Virginians with healthcare coverage. Our seniors depend on it for affordable prescriptions and pre-existing condition coverage.”
Trump is threatening to overturn the entire Affordable Care Act that provided over 200,000 West Virginians with healthcare coverage. Our Seniors depend on it for affordable prescriptions and pre-existing condition coverage.
Here, we’ll look at whether the party is correct that “over 200,000 West Virginians with healthcare coverage.” (The West Virginia Democratic Party did not respond to an inquiry for this article.)
The Affordable Care Act provides two primary ways to get coverage — individual policies purchased on online marketplaces and an expansion of Medicaid to a wider group of eligible Americans. We turned to data on both types from the Kaiser Family Foundation.
For 2019, the number of West Virginians purchasing health insurance on the marketplace totaled 22,599.
And for fiscal year 2017, West Virginia added 183,100 residents to its Medicaid rolls due to the Affordable Care Act. (Kaiser communications director Craig Palosky said 2017 figures are the most recent available due to state-by-state reporting lags.)
Combined, that works out to 205,699 West Virginia residents securing coverage from the law, making the Democratic tweet accurate.
Palosky added that other West Virginians benefited from the law without specifically securing insurance under the law. For instance, the law required coverage of pre-existing conditions and provided more generous coverage of prescription drugs under Medicare.
The West Virginia Democratic Party said the Affordable Care Act “provided over 200,000 West Virginians with health care coverage.”
The combination of insurance purchases on the marketplace and the increase in Medicaid coverage works out to 205,699, according to the most recent data available. That’s in line with what the tweet said, so we rate it True.
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The Affordable Care Act “provided over 200,000 West Virginians with health care coverage.”
The map also notes that the West Bank is Israeli-occupied, with its final status to be determined in peace talks.
Benjamin Netanyahu is seen during a security tour in the Golan Heights, near Israel’s northern border with Syria, on April 11, 2016. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
And it notes that while the US recognized Jerusalem as Israel’s capital in 2017, it does not take a position on the boundaries of the holy city, which is also claimed by the Palestinians as the capital of a future state.
However, while the map was updated, text attached to the Israel entry in the latest CIA world factbook, which included the map, continued to call East Jerusalem and the Golan Heights “Israeli occupied.”
Trump’s formal recognition of Israel’s sovereignty over the Golan sparked widespread international condemnation. The announcement in late March was a major shift in American policy and gave Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu a needed political boost ahead of April elections.
US President Donald Trump, seated, holds up a signed proclamation on the Golan Heights, alongside Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, standing center, in the Diplomatic Reception Room at the White House in Washington, DC, March 25, 2019. Second from right is Trump’s Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt and at right is US Ambassador to Israel David Friedman (Saul Loeb/AFP)
Israel captured the strategic plateau from Syria in the 1967 Six Day War and in 1981 effectively annexed the area, in a move never recognized by the rest of international community, which considers the Golan Heights to be occupied Syrian territory.
The map was published with the US indicating it may also be on board with Israel annexing West Bank settlements.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Friday said he did not believe Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s pre-election talk of extending Israeli sovereignty to all West Bank settlements would hurt the Trump administration’s long-gestating peace plan.
His comments would appear to indicate that the US plan does not provide for Palestinian statehood, or even for Palestinian control of substantive contiguous territory in the West Bank.
Asked during a CNN interview by anchor Jake Tapper whether he thought Netanyahu “vowing to annex the West Bank” could hurt the US proposal, Pompeo answered “I don’t.”
“I think that the vision that we’ll lay out is going to represent a significant change from the model that’s been used,” he added.
“We’ve had a lot of ideas for 40 years. They did not deliver peace between the Israelis and the Palestinians,” Pompeo said. “Our idea is to put forward a vision that has ideas that are new, that are different, that are unique, that tries to reframe and reshape what’s been an intractable problem.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (R) and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) at the Western Wall in Jerusalem’s Old City on March 21, 2019, during the second day of Pompeo’s visit as part of his five-day regional tour of the Middle East. (Kobi Gideon/GPO)
He said the Trump administration wanted “a better life” for both Israelis and Palestinians.
In interviews days before the elections, Netanyahu said he intended to gradually apply Israeli law to all settlements, and that he hoped he could do so with the agreement of the United States.
On Tuesday, a coalition of more than a dozen conservative groups, most of them Jewish, sent a letter to Trump tacitly asking him to respect a potential Israeli annexation of West Bank settlements.
The letter comes in response to a coalition of centrist and liberal groups who last week urged Trump not to recognize a potential Israeli West Bank annexation.
WarningsFrom G-d For President Trump (and family) And The Republican Party!
The very last Book of the Old Testament is the Book of Malachi who the Jewish people consider as one of the “Minor” Prophets. This Book is only 4 chapters long yet it has many warnings to the House of Israel as well as for all humans. You may wonder why I chose the title that I did but after you read this short letter I believe that most of you will understand.
For this letter to you today I am using information from 2 verses in the Book of Malachi and these two can be found at chapter 3 verse 5 and chapter 4 verse 1. If these warnings do not describe President Trump and his adult family as well as the Republican Leadership, then I am baffled by one’s ignorance of reality.
Chapter 3:5 Then I (G-d) will draw near to you for judgement; I will be swift to bear witness against the Sorcerers (Witches), against the Adulterers, against those who swear falsely (Liars), against those who oppress the hired worker in their wages, the Widow and the Orphan, against those who thrust aside the Aliens (foreigners), and who do not fear me, says the Lord of Hosts.
Chapter 4:1 See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evil doers will be stubble (in Hell’s fire); the day that comes will burn them up, says the Lord of Hosts.
Now I would like to tell you why I believe this title is correct, I wish that it wasn’t correct but to me, it obviously is. Let’s start with the first Scripture in 3:5. Adulterers, Trumps, obvious yes. Those who swear falsely (lie). Folks, our President is an habitual liar, even with the ‘Oath of Office’ he constantly lied. Remember “you swear to uphold the Constitution”, the man hates the Constitution and breaks it daily yet the Republican Leadership covers for him no matter what. Do not think for a moment that I am a Democrat, I’m not, I am and have been an Independent for many years. I totally believe that if Hillary Clinton were our President right now that the Democratic Leadership would be shielding her just like the Republicans are shielding Mr. Trump right now. In my opinion, both parties are totally disgusting, neither party leadership seems to care about the people, just ‘the Party.’ “Against those who oppress the hired worker in their wages. Folks, that is and has been as a base of the Republican Party for as long as I have been alive and I was born in 1956. Think about this for a moment, in the last 63 years not one time has the workers minimum wage ever gone up, not at their own initiative when a Republican was in the White House. G-d also has said that He is against those who oppress the Widow and the Orphan, the Republican Party calls all help programs for the poorest citizens ‘Welfare’ and are constantly trying to lower the amount of help, or stop it all together. G-d says that He is against those who thrust/push aside the Aliens/Foreigners, Think about Mr. Trump and his Wall as well as his other policies against the poorest of people at the U.S Mexico Border. Remember, G-d hates it when we treat each other badly like in these examples’
In (chapter 4:1) this two sentence verse is quite explanatory so I will close this letter to you with that verse for us all to think about. ” See, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evil doers will be stubble (in Hell’s fire); the day that comes will burn them up, says the Lord of Hosts.”
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President Trump called former President Jimmy Carter for the first time this weekend.
Carter revealed that news during his regular Sunday school lesson at his home church, Maranatha Baptist Church in Plains, Georgia, on Sunday morning.
Earlier this year, Carter sent Trump a letter with some advice about managing the U.S.-China relationship. Carter oversaw the normalization of diplomatic relations between the two countries 40 years ago.
On Saturday evening, Trump called Carter to talk about it. It was the first time they’d spoken, Carter said. He said Trump told him that he is particularly concerned about how China is “getting ahead of us.”
Carter said he agreed with Trump on this issue.
“And do you know why?” Carter said. “I normalized diplomatic relations with China in 1979. Since 1979, do you know how many times China has been at war with anybody? None. And we have stayed at war,” he said. (China and Vietnam actually fought a brief border war in early 1979, weeks after U.S. relations with China were normalized.)
Carter said the United States is “the most warlike nation in the history of the world” due to a desire to impose American values on other countries, and he suggested that China is investing its resources into projects such as high-speed railroads instead of defense spending.
“How many miles of high-speed railroad do we have in this country?”
Zero, the congregation answered.
“We have wasted, I think, $3 trillion,” Carter said, referring to American military spending. “China has not wasted a single penny on war, and that’s why they’re ahead of us. In almost every way.
“And I think the difference is if you take $3 trillion and put it in American infrastructure, you’d probably have $2 trillion left over. We’d have high-speed railroad. We’d have bridges that aren’t collapsing. We’d have roads that are maintained properly. Our education system would be as good as that of, say, South Korea or Hong Kong.
“I wasn’t comparing my country adversely to China,” Carter qualified. “I was just pointing that out because I happened to get a phone call last night.”
The former president said he understands that Trump is worried about China surpassing the U.S. as the world’s top economic superpower.
“I don’t really fear that time, but it bothers President Trump, and I don’t know why. I’m not criticizing him — this morning,” Carter said to laughs from the audience.
The White House confirmed the conversation in a statement released Monday.
“President Jimmy Carter wrote President Trump a beautiful letter about the current negotiations with China and on Saturday they had a very good telephone conversation about President Trump’s stance on trade with China and numerous other topics,” said the statement, which wasn’t attributed to a spokesperson.
Much of Carter’s Palm Sunday lesson was focused on peace and kindness and was given before an audience that was mostly composed of visitors, many of whom had lined up overnight for the service.
Last month, Carter became the nation’s longest-living president.
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The Trump administration is considering auctioning off Florida’s coastal waters for oil and gas drilling — and Republicans are warning it could cost the president dearly in Florida in the 2020 election.
An industry lobbying offensive has put it on the cusp of achieving its holy grail: access to the resource-rich eastern Gulf of Mexico. The idea is so politically toxic in Florida that past presidents haven’t even entertained it. But behind the scenes, oil and gas interests are appealing to Trump’s desire to turbocharge U.S. energy production, including his past openness to drilling off the Florida coast.
The president and his top advisers haven’t yet weighed in on the plan taking shape inside his Interior Department. But giving it the green light would be tantamount to a declaration of war on his second home state, given the uniform opposition from Florida Republicans, including prominent allies like Sen. Rick Scott, Gov. Ron DeSantis and others.
“He would have a price to pay for that,” Rep. Ted Yoho (R-Fla.), a staunch Trump supporter, told POLITICO.
Industry representatives have said a plan has been imminent since last fall, but many expect the Interior Department is waiting for the Senate to confirm acting Secretary David Bernhardt to fill the agency’s top slot before formally releasing the draft. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell filed cloture Monday on Bernhardt’s confirmation, teeing up a vote this week.
Multiple oil and gas industry sources told POLITICO that the eastern Gulf, along with the Atlantic coast, are included in the administration’s current five-year off-shore drilling proposal, which hasn’t yet been released. The deliberations surrounding that plan are occurring mostly at Interior between lower-level policy aides who are being lobbied by industry representatives, they said.
The administration’s position was muddied when former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke held an elaborately staged Jan. 2018 meeting with Scott, then Florida’s governor, to declare the state wouldn’t be on the drilling map. The announcement was seen as a favor to boost Scott’s electoral fortunes in his ultimately successful challenge against Democratic incumbent Bill Nelson, who tried to use environmental issues to separate himself from the Republican challenger.
In reality, Trump was upset by the announcement. People familiar with his reaction said Zinke’s statement came without White House approval and contradicted the administration’s “energy dominance” message.
Both parties in Florida oppose offshore drilling. Memories of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which sent tarballs ashore in Florida, bring fears of a future spill damaging the state’s fisheries and tourism. Many in the state also say drilling would conflict with military exercises in the area.
Bernhardt has stayed mum about what’s in the offshore leasing proposal, remarking in a March 28 confirmation hearing that the department is at “step one” of the process. Several industry sources disputed that, though, saying the plan is nearly complete.
“For all intents and purposes, it’s done,” said an industry lobbyist familiar with the plan.
But the senior political officials charged with protecting Trump’s electoral prospects haven’t yet focused on the drilling plan, said a source close to the president who met recently with members of Trump’s energy policy team.
The White House referred a request for comment to the Interior Department. An agency spokesperson did not immediately reply to questions about whether the eastern Gulf of Mexico would be included in any draft plan. Bernhardt said at his nomination hearing that the latest draft plan hadn’t reached his desk.
Offshore drilling is broadly unpopular in Florida. A Quinnipiac University poll of Florida voters released March 13 showed 64 percent oppose the practice. Republicans, though, supported it by a 54-38 percent margin. A ballot measure banning oil and gas development in state waters passed overwhelmingly in November.
“I’m going to do everything I can to make sure Florida remains off the table,” Scott told POLITICO in an interview earlier this month. “I’ve been very clear to let the White House know where I stand. This is very important to me.“
The draft plan from Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management would have to go through a comment period, giving the Trump administration another chance to rewrite it before finalizing. It does not need to pass Congress.
The current plan includes a “buffer” to keep rigs at least 100 miles from Florida’s shoreline, according to industry representatives. They said they plan to present Trump with several options for each of the major regions to be covered under the plan, including the mid-Atlantic and Pacific.
“They can put the plan out and if it doesn’t go over very well, this isn’t the final version, so they can just pull it back,” said an oil-and-gas industry source, who added that industry is trying to figure out how close it can get to Florida without inviting backlash. Former President Barack Obama, for example, offered the eastern Gulf of Mexico with a 125-mile buffer before implementing a seven-year ban following the Deepwater Horizon disaster, though Congress already had imposed a moratorium on drilling in waters closest to Florida until 2022.
Florida lawmakers from both parties have signed numerous letters rejecting offshore drilling, no matter how far from the state’s shoreline. Many also have pushed back on what’s known as seismic testing, a precursor to drilling that involves blasting sonar from boats toward the seafloor to search for buried oil and gas deposits. Both chambers of the state legislature are moving resolutions rejecting offshore drilling in the Gulf.
“We don’t want to see any of it in the Gulf, I don’t want to see any of it on the Atlantic side, which is where I represent,” Rep. Brian Mast (R-Fla.) told POLITICO. “We’re not looking for Deepwater Horizons off of Jensen Beach, Miami Beach, Fort Lauderdale Beach, Fort Pierce Beach, and we don’t want to see it out there in the Gulf.”
Even DeSantis, whom Trump endorsed in a crowded Republican primary last year, signed an executive order in January committing the state’s Department of Environmental Protection to “adamantly oppose” offshore drilling. Pressure on Republicans to oppose drilling has only grown since DeSantis was elected in November, as Democrats have homed in on fighting climate change.
“It seems hard to believe that the administration would move forward with drilling off the coast of Florida less than two years before a presidential election,” said Alex Conant, a partner at Firehouse Strategies and former aide to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.). “It would certainly be an issue that Democrats would try to use against [Trump] throughout the state.”
Ahead Of Israeli Election, Netanyahu Pledges To Annex West Bank Settlements
People walk by election campaign billboards showing Israeli Prime Minister and head of the Likud party Benjamin Netanyahu (left) alongside the Blue and White party leaders, including Benny Gantz. Ahead of Tuesday’s election, Netanyahu has pledged to annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has said that he will annex Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank if he is re-elected.
Netanyahu staked out the position on television on Saturday, ahead of Tuesday’s election where he faces a challenge from his former army chief of staff Benny Gantz
The first-time move from the prime minister appears to be aimed at galvanizing support among his nationalist base and right-wing political allies. The annexation of parts of the West Bank would likely be considered the final blow to the possibility of a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Netanyahu was asked on Israeli Channel 12 TV why he hasn’t annexed Israeli settlement blocs in occupied territory, as NPR’s Daniel Estrin reports from Jerusalem.
The prime minister replied: “Will we go to the next phase? The answer is yes. We will go to the next phase to extend Israeli sovereignty.”
“I will impose sovereignty, but I will not distinguish between settlement blocs and isolated settlements,” he continued, The Associated Press reports. “From my perspective, any point of settlement is Israeli, and we have responsibility, as the Israeli government. I will not uproot anyone, and I will not transfer sovereignty to the Palestinians.”
On Sunday, Palestinian Foreign Minister Riad Malki responded to that pledge and accused the U.S. of encouraging Netanyahu.
“If Netanyahu wants to declare Israeli sovereignty over the West Bank, then you know he has to face a real problem, the presence of 4.5 million Palestinians, what to do with them,” Malki told the AP while attending the World Economic forum in Jordan, apparently citing the combined total of Palestinians living in the occupied West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.
He said Israel cannot expel the Palestinians, adding, “The international community has to deal with us.”
Netanyahu has actively supported the growth of Israeli settlements in the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since the Six-Day War in 1967. But Israel has so far stopped short of formally annexing the West Bank, leaving the door open for further negotiations with Palestinians.
The Israeli settlements – which include large subdivisions and cities full of middle-class villas – have long complicated efforts for a two-state solution: Palestinians have said the settlements would make it impossible to create a viable state in the West Bank, as NPR’s Greg Myre has reported.
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Another 200,000 Israelis live in East Jerusalem, part of the West Bank that Israel annexed shortly after the 1967 war.
Saeb Erekat, chief negotiator for the Palestine Liberation Organization, criticized Netanyahu’s statement on Saturday.
“Such a statement by Netanyahu is not surprising,” Erekat wrote on Twitter. “Israel will continue to brazenly violate international law for as long as the international community will continue to reward Israel with impunity, particularly with the Trump Administration’s support and endorsement of Israel’s violation of the national and human rights of the people of Palestine.”
Netanyahu’s political campaign has emphasized his close ties with President Trump, Estrin reports. In his prime time interview on Saturday, Netanyahu portrayed those moves of support from the Trump administration as his own achievements, the AP reports.
Last month, Trump recognized Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights, which Israel seized from Syria in 1967. In his first year in office, Trump had also recognized Jerusalem — the disputed city claimed as capital by both Israeli and Palestinian people — as Israel’s capital, breaking with decades of U.S. foreign policy.
Polls indicate a close race, though Netanyahu’s Likud Party and its traditional allies, smaller right-wing parties, are predicted to win a slight majority of the votes. That gives Netanyahu the edge on forming a ruling coalition over Gantz’s Blue and White political alliance – unless some right-wing parties choose to side with Gantz, Estrin reports.
On Saturday, speaking at a meeting of the Republican Jewish Coalition, he warned a Democratic victory in 2020 could “leave Israel out there”, in an effort to make the case to Jewish voters to support his re-election.
Peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians have been at a standstill since 2014, when a US-brokered attempt to reach a deal collapsed.
“He does have this great faith in his ability to convince someone. Before the first Kim Jong Un summit, he talked about how his touch and his feel would play an important role,” he said. “Maybe now we see his evolution as he tries to trust his diplomats and officials to lay the groundwork rather than taking on all the responsibility himself.”
Robert Lighthizer, who heads China talks for the Trump administration, said “major, major issues” remain. Negotiations continued for a third day on Friday and are due to carry on next week via video link.
The U.S. is pressing China to make commitments to buy American products, to increase protection for intellectual property, and to rebalance trade between the two countries.
Trump said any deal could take up to four weeks.
Officials initially suggested that a summit could take place before the end of March. However, that sparked concerns that any announcement before a deal could weaken U.S. leverage, reducing the chances of winning concessions, according to a person familiar with the talks.
It suggests a new tack for the author of The Art of the Deal, who as a candidate frequently talked up how he would use his business acumen in the realm of politics.
“Deals are my art form. Other people paint beautifully or write poetry,” he said shortly before announcing his presidential run. “I like making deals, preferably big deals. That’s how I get my kicks.”
Curtis Ellis, senior policy adviser with America First Policies and former member of the Trump transition team, said the president had no need to take on the entire weight of negotiations by himself.
Instead, Trump forged a consensus around tough action and promoted the decoupling of the U.S. economy from China, winning more time to strike not just a deal, but the right deal.
“Businesses and business leaders are coming around on China as the threat. They are now open to President Trump’s approach to confront China. They are open to tariffs,” he said.
“There’s now a growing consensus that President Trump’s policy is the right policy, so the pressure for a ‘quick deal’ is disappearing as it becomes more obvious that we need to counter China’s expansion in international markets and infrastructure development.”
(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SHANGHAI CHINA NEWSPAPER ‘SHINE’)
Xi says new substantial progress made on text of China-US economic and trade agreement
14:32 UTC+8, 2019-04-05
Chinese President Xi Jinping said in a message delivered to his US counterpart, Donald Trump, on Thursday that new substantial progress has been made on the text of the China-US economic and trade agreement in the past more than one month.
In the message conveyed by Chinese Vice Premier Liu He at a meeting with Trump at the White House, Xi encouraged the two sides to keep up with the spirit of mutual respect, equality and mutual benefit, and resolve issues of mutual concern so as to conclude the negotiations on the agreement text as soon as possible.
Under the current situation, a healthy and stable development of China-US relations concerns the interests of both Chinese and American people, as well as the interests of people of other countries around the world, and it needs, in particular, their strategic leadership, Xi told Trump.
Xi also said he is ready to keep close contact with Trump through various means, and believes that the China-US relations will make new and greater progress under their joint guidance.
At the meeting, Liu said the Chinese and US negotiation teams have over the past two days conducted fruitful consultations and reached new consensus on such important issues as the text of the economic and trade agreement.
Liu also said that the two sides, guided by the consensus reached by the two heads of state, will continue with the consultations to achieve greater progress on issues of mutual concern so as to conclude the negotiations as soon as possible and push forward the healthy and stable development of bilateral economic and trade ties.
Trump said that the US-China bilateral relationship now sees a sound and robust development, and is at a high level in history.
The US president said that he is glad to see that huge progress has been achieved in the economic and trade negotiations, and that he hopes the two sides make further efforts and resolve the remaining issues in a bid to reach a comprehensive and historic agreement as soon as possible.
It will not only benefit the two countries but also the whole world, he added.
The US president said he looks forward to meeting with Xi after the two sides reach the agreement, and to witnessing the great moment together with the Chinese leader.
Trump also thanked Xi for China’s decision to add fentanyl-related substances to a supplementary list of controlled narcotic drugs and psychotropic substances with non-medical use, saying it is of great significance for American people and the US-China anti-drug cooperation.
Liu is in the United States for the ninth round of high-level economic and trade consultations between the two nations.
US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross and Trump’s senior adviser Jared Kushner attended the meeting.
Source: Xinhua Editor: Wang Qingchu
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BEIJING — Chinese diplomats have been informed of the arrest of a Chinese woman at President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club over the weekend and are providing her with consular services, the Foreign Ministry said Thursday.
Spokesman Geng Shuang told reporters that the Chinese Consulate General in Houston had been notified of the March 30 arrest, had gotten in touch with the person involved and was providing her with consular assistance. Geng gave no details.
Yujing Zhang is being held on charges of illegal entering and lying to U.S. agents.
Court documents allege 32-year-old Zhang told a Secret Service agent Saturday she was a Mar-a-Lago member there to use the pool. Agents were later summoned and they say Zhang began arguing during an interview.
Agent Samuel Ivanovich wrote in court documents that Zhang told him that she was there for a Chinese American event and had come early to familiarize herself with the club and take photos, contradicting what she had said at the checkpoint. He said Zhang said she had traveled from Shanghai to attend the nonexistent Mar-a-Lago event on the invitation of an acquaintance named “Charles,” whom she only knew through a Chinese social media app.
Ivanovich said Zhang carried four cellphones, a laptop computer, an external hard drive and a thumb drive containing computer malware. She did not have a swimsuit.
There is no indication Zhang was ever near the president or that she personally knew Cindy Yang, a Chinese native, Republican donor and former Florida massage parlor owner who made news recently after it was learned she was promising Chinese business leaders that her consulting firm could get them access to Mar-a-Lago, where they could mingle with the president.
A man named Charles Lee ran the United Nations Chinese Friendship Association and was photographed at least twice with Yang, who also goes by the name Yang Li. Yang previously owned a spa where New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was charged with soliciting prostitution.
Archived images of the United Nations Chinese Friendship Association website, which has since been taken down, show that the organization advertised itself as a non-profit registered with the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. A page of “registration documents” purports to show certificates from the States of Delaware and New York, as well as a screenshot of a listing on the U.N.’s official website.
But a search Thursday for the association on the U.N.’s database did not turn up any results.
The United Nations Chinese Friendship Association’s website also shows Lee in photos with several government officials of various countries, including Trump, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, as well as officials from China, Canada, Turkey and South Korea. It is not clear whether any of the photos have been digitally altered.
While no espionage charges have been filed against Zhang, her arrest has reignited concerns especially among Democrats that Trump’s use of the club constitutes a security risk as long as members and guests are allowed to come in and out while he is there.
Zhang’s arrest attracted comments from Chinese internet users on the popular Weibo microblogging service, many of whom portrayed her as having been tricked by those seeking to exploit her desire for attention and connections.
The Communist Party newspaper Global Times, known for its strident nationalism, ran a lengthy report on the Zhang and Yang cases, accusing the U.S. media of hyping them as examples of Chinese “Trojan horses” entering Mar-a-Lago out of an excess of “Cold War thinking.”
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