A Chinese day-spa proprietor started getting invitations to Mar-A-Lago after President Donald Trump alienated other members of Palm Beach’s high society with his comments on the deadly Charlottesville white supremacist rally.
The president’s private club hosted 33 events in each of the two years before the 2017 rally that left an anti-racist protester dead, but the number dwindled to just 10 events after Trump said “very fine people on both sides” took part in the rally, reported the Miami Herald.
Li “Cindy” Yang, who opened a string of Asian-themed day spas that has recently been implicated in alleged human trafficking, started attending and promoting events at Mar-A-Lago during that down season, after joining the fundraising circuit in the Florida Republican Party.
She worked the door Jan. 26, 2018, for a “Safari Night” fundraiser for the charity Young Adventurers hosted by the president’s older sister, Elizabeth Trump Grau, and helped Mar-A-Lago sell tickets during the post-Charlottesville drought.
Dozens of associates from her Asian-American political group attended the event, along with other guests recruited through Yang’s Women’s Charity Foundation Inc., which paid $40,000 for a pair of paintings at the event.
Yang touted her access to the president into a business, GY US Investments, marketed to overseas clients.
Ethics and national security experts say the situation raises highly unusual risks for the president.
Selling access to private events is not new, and foreign nationals are not barred from giving contributions to private foundations or nonprofits as they are from giving to U.S. political campaigns.
“What’s different here is that the president and his family have a direct financial interest in putting on these event,” said Jeffrey Prescott, a former National Security Council aide in the Obama administration. “There’s a personal financial interest we’ve never seen before.”
Yang’s guests paid hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars for tickets to Mar-A-Lago events, and a portion of that money found its way to the Trump Organization, which rented the space for charity events.