Congressional Democrats ask the FBI to investigate the former owner of a Florida massage parlor. "I'm Chinese. I'm Republican. That's the reason the Democrats want to check me," Li "Cindy" Yang tells NBC News. "I love Americans. I love our president. I don't do anything wrong."
Yang once owned Orchids of Asia Day Spa, where police recently conducted prostitution stings and arrested Patriots owner Robert Kraft. But Yang sold that business years ago. Now she's being accused of a different kind of illicit activity: selling "access" to the president on behalf of Chinese officials. The basis for these allegations is thin at best—and at worst smacks of both anti-immigrant bigotry and weaponizing law enforcement for partisan purposes.
A naturalized U.S. citizen, Yang moved here from China about two decades ago and settled in south Florida. She's now a member of Trump's Florida-based Mar-a-Lago Club, and she recently took a selfie with the president at a Super Bowl party at Trump International golf resort in West Palm Beach.
Since 2017, Yang and her husband have run GY US Investments, a company that provides branding and business consulting services to Chinese and Chinese-American entrepreneurs, including helping them get access to elected officials.
Neither congressional Democrats nor the myriad media reports on Yang have provided any evidence of wrongdoing to accompany their insinuations that she has ties to Chinese authorities or is working some secret angle. And what GY US Investments offers is hardly different from what many a well-respected D.C. firm peddles, too. It seems that just because Yang is Chinese, people are assuming she couldn't be a Trump fan and a Republican supporter (or just a shrewd businessperson who saw an opportunity) without having a hidden and nefarious agenda, or without being too stupid to realize that she's being used by China's government somehow.
Democrats in Congress have asked the FBI to investigate Yang. On what grounds, it isn't quite clear. In a March 15 letter to the FBI, Democratic members of the House and Senate intelligence and judiciary committees wrote that ''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 other even more nefarious purposes."
Yang's company website describes GY Investments as an "international business consulting firm that provides public relations services to assist businesses in America to establish and expand their brand image in the modern Chinese marketplace." As part of its marketing materials, GY says that past "activities for clients" have included "the opportunity to interact with the president, the [American] Minister of Commerce and other political figures." It also says it can arrange "taking photos with the President."
So…what? None of that is illegal. And whether you call it "public relations," "lobbying," "political consulting," or whatever, this is exactly what entire fancy industries in this country are set up to do.
Yang tells NBC that her business was about business, not an ideological agenda—"nothing to do with politics, just like business networking." She says the president took a selfie with her, as he does with many fans but doesn't know her personally, and that she wanted the picture to put on her company's website as a marketing tool. She adds that she was "so scared" by all the recent media attention that she has lost 15 pounds and has had trouble sleeping.
In Ohio, the Columbus Division of Police just abolished the entire vice unit. The move comes following revelations of a range of disturbing activity from members of the unit, including the suspicious "officer-involved shooting" death of a sex worker, the arrest on false pretenses of Stormy Daniels, a lawsuit from other strip club staff arrested in the Daniels sting, and last week's FBI announcement that Columbus Vice Officer Andrew Mitchell had been indicted on federal charges. Mitchell is accused of abducting women "under the guise of an arrest" and forcing them "to engage in sex for their freedom."
Interim Columbus Police Chief Thomas A. Quinlan said Tuesday that he was abolishing the assignments of all current vice officers. "While today's decision is not a reflection on all the officers assigned to vice, it has become clear there's a better method of addressing the community's needs when to it comes to the enforcement of prostitution, alcohol and gambling," he said in a video posted to Twitter. "Soon I am meeting with the deputy chiefs to develop a new model for enforcement. Following this meeting, I will share the division's plans with the community."
How law enforcement learned to love Touch ID. "Court documents unsealed Tuesday reveal the breadth of technical information federal investigators were permitted to collect on President Donald Trump's former fixer Michael Cohen," reports CNN:
Notably, the FBI made use of Cohen's use of Touch ID and Face ID on his Apple devices, which allow users to quickly log into iPhones and computers by scanning their face or fingerprint rather than typing in a password. Those features are marketed as faster and more secure ways to securely log into one's devices, as it's harder, though not impossible, to replicate someone's fingerprint or appearance.
But that gives law enforcement an additional means to access those devices. In one warrant application for Cohen, an FBI agent requested authorization "to press the fingers (including thumbs) of Cohen to the Touch ID sensors of the Subject Devices, or hold the Subject Devices in front of Cohen's face, for the purpose of attempting to unlock the Subject Devices via Touch ID or Face ID."
While the issue has never come before the Supreme Court, tech civil liberties experts warn that a warrant can compel a suspect to use their face or fingerprint to give up access to an otherwise locked device.
Tariffs on Chinese goods will still be around "for a substantial period of time," President Donald Trump said Wednesday. Asked about U.S. tariffs on about $250 billion worth of Chinese exports, Trump said "We're not talking about removing them, we're talking about leaving them for a substantial period of time. Because we have to make sure that if we do the deal with China that China lives by the deal."
Reminder: the United States government has been stealing people's children and is not giving them back. It is doing so to deter them from exercising a legal right under US and international law, applying for asylum. https://t.co/OM3d7mMY5J
— Michael Paarlberg (@MPaarlberg) March 20, 2019
- The Trump administration is pushing for caps on student loan borrowing for the parents of college students. Students are currently capped at $57,500 worth of federal loans, but parents face no limit.
- Former White House communications director Hope Hicks is cooperating with House Democrats investigating Trump.
Both Hope Hicks and AMI, the owner of the National Enquirer, have agreed to turn over documents to the House Judiciary Committee in response to their request for documents for an investigation into the Trump administration obstruction of justice and abuse of power.
— Rebecca Kaplan (@RebeccaRKaplan) March 20, 2019
- New York state won't legalize marijuana in time to include pot revenue in the upcoming budget.
- A new report from ALEC looks at unfunded liabilities in public pension plans, which "continue to loom over state governments nationwide," according to the organization. In Unaccountable and Unaffordable 2018, ALEC "surveys the more than 280 state-administered public pension plans, detailing their assets and liabilities" and finds that "unfunded liabilities of state-administered pension plans, using a proper, risk-free discount rate, now total over $5.96 trillion."
- The U.K. is nuts:
A journalist has been accused of a hate crime, after she misgendered a trans person on Twitter. Hate crimes have a maximum two-year prison sentence.
But with knife crimes soaring across the UK, should police be investigating incidents such as these?@SwainITV with more. pic.twitter.com/eyh1NJfT1W
— Good Morning Britain (@GMB) March 20, 2019
- Democratic presidential candidate and former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper says "of course" he would nominate a woman as his vice president if he got the nomination. But he also wants to know: "How come we're not asking, more often, the women, 'Would you be willing to put a man on the ticket?'"
- Cato's Jonathan Blanks on the Free Thoughts Podcast:
"There's no money in solving murders. There's money in drug busts and civil asset forfeiture and those kinds of things." — @BlanksSlate on the impacts of institutional and historical racism in America… https://t.co/isfWhxV4gi
— Kat Murti (@KatMurti) March 20, 2019