Today's Paper Search Latest stories Listen Drivetime Mahatma Traffic Weather Newsletters Most commented Obits Puzzles + Games Archive
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT

WASHINGTON -- Top Democrats in Congress want the FBI to conduct criminal and counterintelligence inquiries into a Chinese-American business executive accused of using her personal access to President Donald Trump to facilitate business opportunities for Chinese executives, activities that came to light after a Florida massage parlor she founded was exposed as part of a sex-trafficking and prostitution ring.

In a letter to the heads of the directors of the FBI, national intelligence agencies and the Secret Service, the top intelligence and judiciary committee Democrats from the Senate and House asked for investigations into "credible allegations of potential human trafficking, as well as unlawful foreign lobbying, campaign finance and other activities" by Li "Cindy" Yang, a naturalized U.S. citizen from China.

Yang, a Republican donor, has made frequent visits to Trump's Mar-a-Lago Club and attended the president's Super Bowl party this year, snapping a selfie of herself with the president during the event.

It is that level of contact -- though it appears that Yang often had to pay her way into events -- that has congressional investigators concerned that her activities "could permit adversary governments or their agents access to these same politicians to acquire potential material for blackmail or other even more nefarious purposes."

They acknowledged, however, that Yang may not have had such compromising intentions herself, and that her "activities may only be those of an unscrupulous actor allegedly selling access to politicians for profit."

Evan Turk, an attorney for Yang, said a legal team has reviewed the allegations, which he described as "politically driven."

"We have seen the Democratic partisan letter and allegations. Our firm will represent our client and her interest as an American through any developments in this case. It seems as another politically driven expedition. We will be addressing these matters when appropriate," Turk said in a statement to The Washington Post.

The effort is being endorsed by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., who in a joint statement Monday said that "the facts in this situation are very concerning" and urged the FBI "to adhere to the joint bicameral requests ... and start an investigation."

Yang founded a chain of Florida spas and massage parlors, including Orchids of Asia, the establishment in which Patriots football team owner Robert Kraft was accused of soliciting prostitution in a recent sting. Though Yang has not been personally charged in that investigation -- and sold the day spa in question six years ago, her lawyer said -- the episode has increased scrutiny of Yang's other businesses, at least one of which congressional investigators worry could pose national security concerns.

Yang operates a company called GY U.S. Investments, which offered prospective clients a chance to rub elbows with Trump and other powerful politicians through dinners, fundraisers and other events -- including at Mar-a-Lago. In one instance in late 2017, the Miami Herald reported, Yang boasted of taking a group of Chinese executives to a fundraiser in New York -- something that is legal as long as they were guests and didn't reimburse Yang for their entry. Democrats suspect, however, that they might have.

In their letter, Sens. Mark Warner, D-Va., and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Reps. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., asked whether Yang or others were "offering foreigners access to the President, those close to him, or other senior officials in exchange for money" -- and if the Trump campaign was doing a thorough job to ensure that the funds weren't "being contributed illicitly or through straw donors."

They also asked whether Yang or her clients had violated foreign lobbying laws -- and whether her actions had brought her to the attention of law enforcement, whether for her business ties, national security concerns or human trafficking.

The FBI declined to comment on whether it is or was investigating Yang or plans to. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Secret Service also did not comment on the letter.

The White House declined to comment.

The authors of the letter requested a response by the close of business Thursday.

Information for this article was contributed by Michelle Ye Hee Lee and Ellen Nakashima of The Washington Post.

A Section on 03/19/2019

Print Headline: Letter: Investigate Mar-a-Lago visitor

ADVERTISEMENT

Sponsor Content

You must be signed in to post comments

Comments

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT