‘This is a situation that is clearly unethical. It is very troubling, it raises all kinds of questions and cries out for a deeper investigation…’
(Alex Daugherty, McClatchy Washington Bureau) Smelling another salacious sex scandal like the ones in the discredited Steele Dossier, Democrats hope the FBI department once notoriously headed by Peter Strzok can again spin hay into partisan gold.
Democrats in Congress are asking the FBI’s counterintelligence division to investigate former Florida massage parlor owner Li “Cindy” Yang after the Miami Herald and others reported on Yang’s access to President Donald Trump and work to get Chinese business executives access to political fundraisers.
In a letter sent Friday to FBI Director Christopher Wray, National Intelligence Director Dan Coats and U.S. Secret Service Director Randolph Alles, Democrats called for criminal and counterintelligence investigations into “credible allegations of potential human trafficking, as well as unlawful foreign lobbying, campaign finance and other activities by Ms. Yang.”
Yang has not been charged with any crimes related to her massage parlor operation or connections to Chinese officials, nor has Donald Trump thus far been implicated in any of the many ongoing investigations being led by partisan Democrats in the House and Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees.
Yang, who operates a string of South Florida Asian day spas linked to sexual services, arranged for a group of Chinese expats to attend a 2017 Republican fundraiser for Trump at a New York restaurant as part of her work with the National Committee of Asian American Republicans.
Yang founded—but had sold—the massage parlor that New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft allegedly visited on the day of the AFC Championship Game.
The business was under surveillance, and Kraft and several other men were charged.
Yang has attracted attention due to her social media posts showing her in close proximity to Trump, including at a Super Bowl party at a Trump golf course. She has also attended events at Mar-a-Lago, the president’s private Palm Beach club.
She is part of a network of organizations pushing for Taiwan to return to Chinese control and that fall under the oversight of the Chinese government.
“If true, these allegations raise serious counterintelligence concerns,” said House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler, Senate Intelligence Vice Chairman Mark Warner and Senate Judiciary Ranking Member Dianne Feinstein.
“China has frequently used non-traditional intelligence collectors and businesspersons to compromise targets,” they wrote. “Although Ms. Yang’s activities may only be those of an unscrupulous actor allegedly selling access to politicians for profit, her activities could also permit adversary governments or their agents to access these same politicians to acquire potential material for blackmail or other even more nefarious purposes.”
The outrage, however, seems selective at best. Democrats—along with the FBI—showed little interest in past concerns that the Chinese government may have had access to a trove of sensitive and classified emails sent via the unsecured e-mail server of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her 2016 run for president.
The Intelligence and Judiciary leaders also want to know if any state, federal or local law enforcement agencies were aware of Yang’s activities before recent press reports, what level of access Yang or her associates had with the White House and senior White House officials, whether the White House vetted any donors or attendees at Mar-a-Lago parties to make sure that illegal foreign campaign cash was not being accepted and whether Yang’s activities posed any specific counterintelligence risks.
Similar concerns have been linked to Democrats, including Feinstein herself, whose driver of more than 20 years was accused of Chinese espionage.
The California senator—who springboarded her career by becoming mayor of San Francisco after the public 1978 murders of George Moscone and Harvey Milk—has long maintained cozy ties with the Chinese. Her husband, Richard Blum, has been very successful in conducting business with them.
During the term of Bill Clinton, the First Family also was linked to a number of scandals involving the exchange of sensitive information, including nuclear secrets, for campaign funding.
Clinton bundler Terry McAuliffe, who later served as chair of the Democratic National Committee and governor of Virginia, was implicated in several illicit business arrangements involving Chinese nationals.
None of the Democratic scandals involving the Chinese, despite their serious nature, yielded any substantive investigations at the FBI level.
“The facts in this situation are very concerning, and we urge Director Wray to adhere to the joint bicameral requests of the Democratic Senate ranking members and Democratic House chairmen and start an investigation,” Pelosi and Schumer said in a joint statement.
South Florida Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who sits on the House committee responsible for overseeing the nation’s national security agencies, also expressed a desire to investigate Yang’s activities.
“These revelations raise very serious, disturbing concerns,” Wasserman Schultz said last week. “If she has significant ties to the Chinese government, that makes it even more disturbing. This is a situation that is clearly unethical. It is very troubling, it raises all kinds of questions and cries out for a deeper investigation.”
Wasserman Schultz, the former head of the Democratic National Committee, was involved in her own ethical scandal and forced to resign in 2016 after hacked emails revealed she had helped fix the Democrats’ presidential primary to secure Clinton’s nomination.
(Miami Herald staff writers Nicholas Nehamas, Sarah Blaskey and Caitlin Ostroff, and Liberty Headlines’ Ben Sellers contributed to this report.)
(c)2019 McClatchy Washington Bureau. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.