Workers lay out the red carpet at Mar-a-Lago Club on December 30, 2016 in Palm Beach, Florida....
DON EMMERT

New questions surround Mar-a-Lago guest allegedly selling access to Trump

When New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft was first charged with solicitation, it didn’t appear to be much of a political story. It was of mild interest that Donald Trump was quick to give his friend/donor the benefit of the doubt, but this didn’t appear to be the kind of story that would capture the political world’s attention.

That’s starting to change – for reasons that have very little to do with Kraft.

The Miami Herald reported late last week that Trump hosted a Super Bowl party last month at Mar-a-Lago, the Florida country club he still owns and profits from, and smiled for a picture with Li Yang (who goes by Cindy Yang), who created a chain of spas that “gained a reputation for offering sexual services.” In fact, the New England Patriots owner was arrested at a spa created by Yang.

Mother Jones advanced the story several steps further over the weekend, noting that Yang also runs an investment business that has “offered to sell Chinese clients access” to the Republican president and his family.

Yang, who goes by Cindy, and her husband, Zubin Gong, started GY US Investments LLC in 2017. The company describes itself on its website, which is mostly in Chinese, as an “international business consulting firm that provides public relations services to assist businesses in America to establish and expand their brand image in the modern Chinese marketplace.” But the firm notes that its services also address clients looking to make high-level connections in the United States.

On a page displaying a photo of Mar-a-Lago, Yang’s company says its “activities for clients” have included providing them “the opportunity to interact with the president, the [American] Minister of Commerce and other political figures.” The company boasts it has “arranged taking photos with the President” and suggests it can set up a “White House and Capitol Hill Dinner.”

Yang, a registered Republican and Trump donor, featured a photo of her and the president on the company’s website. (Coincidentally, the site was apparently taken down after the Miami Herald’s initial report was published.)

Mother Jonesreport added, “The overall message conveyed by the GY US Investments website seems clear: hire Yang’s company and she can get you close to Trump and his government – at Mar-a-Lago and in Washington.”

In some cases, Yang’s company may have done more than just offer access to Trump World, it may have also successfully made connections. The Miami Herald had a related report over the weekend, noting that the massage-parlor entrepreneur “arranged for a group of Chinese business executives to attend a paid fundraiser for President Donald Trump in New York City at the end of 2017.”

None of the recent reporting points to anything specific that the American president did wrong, but let’s not miss the forest for the trees. As Chas Danner explained, “The reports not only raise another red flag about how political influence has been monetized during the Trump presidency, but provide new evidence of how Trump-branded properties have become magnets for corruption and grift.”

Yang has denied any wrongdoing. Nevertheless, I have a hunch we haven’t heard the last of this story.

Corruption, Culture of Corruption and Donald Trump

New questions surround Mar-a-Lago guest allegedly selling access to Trump