Part of what makes Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago scandal so serious is the fact that the former president allegedly took highly sensitive national security secrets and didn’t want to give them back. But another part of the controversy is where, exactly, the Republican kept the classified materials he wasn’t supposed to have.
In fact, the more we learn about the glorified country club’s security, the easier it is to understand why the Justice Department and other federal agencies were so concerned.
The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and Organized Crime Corruption and Reporting Project published a stunning report today on a young woman named Inna Yashchyshyn, who presented herself as Anna de Rothschild, and who boasted about her wealth, roots to a European banking dynasty, and developing ambitions.
A pivotal moment for the woman who was fluent in several languages took place last year when she was invited to Mar-a-Lago, where she mingled with former President Donald Trump’s supporters and showed up the next day for a golf outing with Mr. Trump and Sen. Lindsey Graham among other political luminaries.
The entire article, which has not been independently verified by MSNBC or NBC News, is well worth your time, in part because it reads like the script of a movie about an amazing ruse.
But it’s also especially relevant right now given the ongoing scandal surrounding the former president’s property. The report notes that this woman — with “a fake identity and shadowy background” — allegedly bypassed the security at Mar-a-Lago with relative ease
The FBI has reportedly begun an inquiry into the matter, and “at least three people who live in South Florida said they have been interviewed by FBI agents in the past seven months about Ms. Yashchyshyn’s activities.” The Post-Gazette added:
Her entry — multiple trips in and out of the club grounds — lays bare the vulnerabilities of a facility that serves as both the former president’s residence and a private club, and highlights the gaps in security that can take place. “That’s his residence,” said Ed Martin, a former U.S. Treasury special agent who spent more than two decades in criminal intelligence. “She shouldn’t have been in there.”
A club guest told the newspaper, “What I’m trying to understand is how did they allow this? How could someone keep coming back — at that level? This is Mar-a-Lago.”
Well, yes, and therein lies the point.
Republican Sen. Ron Johnson, who actually chaired the Senate Homeland Security Committee for six years, downplayed the seriousness of Trump’s scandal last week because, as the Wisconsinite put it, Mar-a-Lago is “a pretty safe place” and “a secure location.”
But as we discussed soon after, there’s overwhelming evidence to the contrary. In 2017, for example, just months into Trump’s presidency, Politico reported, “President Donald Trump relishes the comforts of his Mar-a-Lago estate for repeated weekends away from Washington, but former Secret Service and intelligence officials say the resort is a security nightmare vulnerable to both casual and professional spies.”
A few months later, ProPublica tested security measures at the private club and marveled at how vulnerable it was. The piece quoted one cybersecurity expert who said hackers could use Mar-a-Lago’s network to remotely turn on the microphones and cameras of devices connected to the network. “What you’re describing is typical hotel security,” he said, but “it’s pretty concerning” that an attacker could listen to sensitive national security conversations.
A year later, according to a Miami Herald report, a college kid visiting his grandparents in Palm Beach over Thanksgiving snuck through a tunnel that connects Mar-a-Lago’s beach club with the main property. “I wanted to see how far I could get,” he told a judge.
A year after that, a Chinese citizen was allowed to enter Mar-a-Lago because part of her name matched that of a member of the club. As Rachel noted on the show, the woman was carrying four cell phones, an external hard drive, a laptop, and a thumb drive that the Secret Service discovered was infected with some sort of malware — all while the sitting president was on the premises.
The year after Trump left the White House — but while he continued to hold onto classified materials — Yashchyshyn allegedly finagled her way into the club, several times, and managed to hang out with the former president and a sitting Republican U.S. senator.
This is the venue where Trump kept highly classified national security secrets that he wasn’t supposed to have.