Top Democrats on the House and Senate Intelligence and Judiciary committees want the US intelligence community to investigate Li “Cindy” Yang, a Florida woman who is accused of selling access to President Donald Trump.
Democrats want to know if Yang, a Chinese immigrant and entrepreneur, was acting alone or in concert with the Chinese government. Yang got direct access to Trump herself at least two times, posing with the president at his annual Super Bowl watch party last month at Mar-a-Lago and snapping a picture with him at a separate Republican National Committee fundraiser at Mar-a-Lago last March. Yang had to pay $50,000 for her March 2018 dinner and photo with the president.
She also founded a company called GY US Investments that promised businesspeople from China access to the White House and Capitol Hill. GY US Investments promised to broker visits at places including the White House, Mar-a-Lago, and the annual shareholder meeting of Warren Buffett’s company Berkshire Hathaway, according to the New York Times.
“Although Ms. Yang’s activities may only be those of an unscrupulous actor allegedly selling access to politicians for profit, her activities also could permit adversary governments or their agents access to these same politicians to acquire potential material for blackmail or even more nefarious purposes,” the March 15 letter from House Judiciary Committee Chair Jerry Nadler (D-NY), House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA), Senate Judiciary Committee Vice Chair Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chair Mark Warner (D-VA) reads.
Yang, a Florida resident, is the same woman who founded a chain of Asian day spas in her home state that allegedly sold sexual services to clients. Those clients included New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft, who is a friend of the president’s. Although she no longer owns the spas, Yang gained notoriety after the Miami Herald published an investigation of how she gained access to Trump. The Herald’s report came two months after Kraft was caught allegedly paying for oral sex at Yang’s former establishment Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Florida (her family still owns some of the spas).
House Democrats are lobbing a lot of investigations at Trump; this is just the latest in a growing list.
What Democrats want to know — and why they’re asking now
Up until now, House and Senate Democrats have launched numerous investigations looking at whether Russian nationals gained access to Trump and his associates. But there are other countries they are worried about, including China.
“China has frequently used non-traditional intelligence collectors and businesspersons to compromise targets,” the letter from top Democrats reads. They also quote recent testimony from FBI Director Christopher Wray calling the threat from Chinese counterintelligence “more deep, more diverse, more vexing, more challenging, more comprehensive, and more concerning than any counterintelligence threat I can think of.”
Democrats want to know what the vetting process is for foreign nationals looking to meet with the president at Mar-a-Lago, and are asking intelligence officials if they were already looking into Yang’s background and her interactions with Trump and other Republican politicians. They’re also interested in her connections to possible human trafficking at the day spas she used to own.
In other words, Yang has become a person of interest for congressional Democrats. If she’s also raised alarm bells among the US intelligence community, they will want to know more.