A Chinese woman charged with illegally entering President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort will be allowed to act as her own attorney, a judge ruled Tuesday after strenuously trying to talk her out of it as she struggled with legal concepts and spoken English.
U.S. District Judge Roy Altman found Yujing Zhang to be competent and intelligent, granting her request to fire her public defenders and be her own lawyer, as is her legal right. But he also ordered her attorneys to remain on standby, sit in the gallery at all hearings, assist if she requests help and resume their roles if she finds the task too difficult and changes her mind.
Zhang, a 33-year-old Shanghai business consultant, has pleaded not guilty to charges of trespassing March 30 at Mar-a-Lago and lying to Secret Service agents when they confronted her.
They say she was carrying a computer, cellphones and other electronics and had additional gear and significant cash in her hotel room, but she has not been charged with espionage. Zhang faces up to six years in prison and $250,000 in fines if convicted. She is being held without bond.
President Donald Trump and Jeffrey Epstein, the 66-year-old hedge fund manager charged this week with sex trafficking and conspiracy to commit sex trafficking, were the only other attendees to a party that consisted of roughly two dozen women at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, according to a New York Times report.
In 1992, the women were reportedly flown in for a "calendar girl" competition that was requested by Trump, The Times said.
"At the very first party, I said, 'Who's coming tonight? I have 28 girls coming,'" former Trump associate George Houraney reportedly said. "It was him and Epstein."
"I said, 'Donald, this is supposed to be a party with VIPs. You're telling me it's you and Epstein," he recalled saying.
Houraney claimed to have warned Trump about Epstein's behavior and said the real estate tycoon did not heed his notice. Houraney, a businessman, reportedly said Trump "didn't care" about how he had to ban Epstein from his events.
U.S. District Judge Roy Altman said Tuesday that Yujing Zhang “is apparently trying to play games with the court” as she appeared uncooperative during the hearing.
“The court will not allow the defendant to play games,” Altman said.
Altman rescheduled Zhang’s trial to begin Sept. 3 instead of next week, allowing her more time to prepare after she fired her public defenders, despite having no familiarity with the U.S. justice system.
Altman has tried to talk Zhang, 33, out of representing herself for months and has required her previous public defenders to attend her hearings in case she reverses her decision. She stood by her decision Tuesday, despite struggling to comprehend legal procedures.
During her hearing, Zhang appeared to be staring off into space, ignoring questions from Altman through a Mandarin interpreter, and told the judge she felt dizzy.
Zhang has pleaded not guilty to trespassing March 30 at the president’s Florida resort and lying to Secret Service agents about why she was at Mar-a-Lago. A judge denied her bail, saying she poses an “extreme risk of flight” if she is released from custody.
At the time of her arrest she was carrying two Chinese passports, four cellphones, a laptop, and a device containing malware. In a search of her hotel room, prosecutors found a device that could detect hidden cameras and more than $7,500 in cash were found.
Zhang originally told authorities she was at Mar-a-Lago to swim but later changed her story.
At the White House, people who want to meet with Donald Trump have to deal with schedulers, scores of aides hovering around the president and a strict security protocol.
At Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s luxury South Florida resort where he typically spends Christmas and New Year’s Eve, the president is just another guy in the buffet line.
That’s where Alan Dershowitz, the liberal lawyer who now volubly defends Trump on TV, ran into the president on Christmas Eve. The two were waiting to get food, and Dershowitz said he offered the president an empty plate — Trump declined and instead picked up his own — as the two discussed holiday plans.
“He was in a very good mood,” Dershowitz said. “People were talking to him, people were high-fiving him. These are his people.”
Over the past three years, Trump has spent his days at Mar-a-Lago — which he calls “The Southern White House” — surrounded by an unpredictable cast of Palm Beach residents, wedding guests and the characters Trump invites down for a meeting or a round of golf. It’s often led to a more freewheeling atmosphere, in which the president feels more comfortable to freely meet with people, knowing he’s outside the strictures of official Washington.
Donald Trump's children were dressed to the nines for the president's glam New Year's Eve party at Mar-a-Lago.
Barron, 13, who was smartly attired in a tuxedo and black tie, was joined by sisters Tiffany and Ivanka, brothers Eric and Don Jr. on the red carpet for the swanky shindig.
Trump's children looked on from the wings as their father addressed the press before the party, with the president delivering a strong warning to Iran and laughing off renewed bluster from North Korea.
Though Barron has been a regular attendee at the bash since at least the end of 2014, he stood out on Tuesday following a notable growth spurt over the past year. While Barron’s official height isn’t publicly available, photos show that the teen is at least as tall as his six-foot-two father.
Prior to Tuesday's festivities, Trump, with First Lady Melania at his side, addressed reporters and spoke on some of the pressing topics of the day.