Mr. Trump encouraged an organizer to prepare the ballroom for an event in February beyond the 700-person limit, advising that person to tell his staff in Mar-a-Lago that he had said that he would authorize the increase. The organizer learned that the Mar-a-Lago security team did not have the last word on the number of spectators, but the event still had about 730 guests.
In the end, Mr. Trump did not attend the screening, which was screened by officials from Mar-a-Lago and a private security firm hired by the organizers of the event.
When the president is not in his club, the security bubble becomes easier to break.
Members and guests must always present their ID and register with the club's security team, but several layers of Secret Service protection are not in place. Laurence Leamer, a resident of Palm Beach who wrote a book on Mar-a-Lago, said in an interview that the scene might be free, like "a dinner at the Outback Steakhouse," adding that security " seems incredibly lazy. "
Mr. Trump was at his nearby golf club four miles away when Ms. Zhang arrived at the resort on Saturday, and the process used by the secret service to monitor visitors when it was in town was in place, said managers. Ms. Zhang was examined by officers before reaching the club's reception area, but confusion over her name and a potential barrier to communication brought her in.
On Wednesday, the secret services were examining the Saturday incident with security at Mar-a-Lago. John Cohen, a former acting under-secretary of the Department of Homeland Security who worked closely with the secret services on the details of the protection, said that the "predictable" displacement of the president in the station had made the 39, vulnerable place.
"It's a nightmare for the secret services," he said. "A private ranch where the president and his associates use the site is much easier than protecting the president when he chooses to visit a private club open to members, who provides services to these people for expenses."
When people approach a checkpoint in Mar-a-Lago, the secret services are focusing on their search for weapons or explosives, Mihalek said.