By Cynthia McFadden, Anna Schecter, Lisa Cavazuti and Rich Schapiro
The former operator of a Florida spa named in a prostitution investigation is speaking out for the first time to rebut reports that she sold access to President Donald Trump.
In an interview with NBC News, Li "Cindy" Yang said she believes she's facing allegations of being a Chinese agent solely because of her ethnicity and political leanings.
"I'm Chinese. I'm Republican," Yang said. "That's the reason the Democrats want to check me."
Yang added that over her roughly 20 years living in the U.S. she has never had any contact with members of the Chinese government.
"I love Americans. I love our president. I don't do anything wrong," she said.
Yang spoke out two days after top Democrats released a letter calling on the FBI to launch counterintelligence and criminal investigations into the Florida-based businesswoman whose ties to Trump emerged earlier this month.
Yang came under scrutiny after New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft was charged in late February with soliciting a prostitute at the Orchids of Asia Day Spa in Jupiter. Kraft has denied the charges.
Yang sold the business years ago but attracted attention after she posted a selfie showing her with President Trump at a Super Bowl party at the Trump International golf resort in Florida.
The Democrats requested the FBI investigation after her company, GY Investments, was described in media reports as offering wealthy Chinese clients the opportunity to get close to the president for a price.
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''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,'' Democrats on the House and Senate intelligence and judiciary committees wrote in the letter, dated March 15.
The FBI declined to comment on the letter and said it "can neither confirm or deny whether we are conducting particular investigations."
Yang said she sold her spa business roughly seven years ago and no longer has anything to do with the salon that's now at the center of a human trafficking investigation.
"I sold to her in 2012 or 2013," Yang said. "How they do their business has nothing to do with me."
Yang insisted that no prostitution ever took place at her facilities when she was still operating them.
"Nobody in my place do that," she said. "We never have police report. We never have any problems. Nothing."
Frank Figliuzzi, a former FBI assistant director for counterintelligence and NBC News/MSNBC analyst, said a person like Yang, a Chinese immigrant who enjoyed hobnobbing with prominent Republicans, would have almost certainly garnered the attention of Chinese intelligence services.
"She enjoyed proximity to power and she even started a business offering to get you next to powerful people, politicians, even President Trump himself," Figliuzzi said.
"In itself that would have been the target of the Chinese intelligence services, who could have fed people without her even knowing it into that pipeline of her business, and got them access and then taken it from there without her even knowing what they were doing."
But Yang dismissed the allegations that she could be an unwitting agent of the Chinese government. She said she has attended events at Mar-a-Lago and elsewhere to be social and to give to charity.
"Nothing to do with politics, just like business networking," she said.
She said she has donated thousands of dollars to Trump because she supports his policies, especially his tax plan.
"Reduce the tax. That would help us a lot," she said.
And Yang said she she took a selfie with Trump to promote herself and her business — not him.
"For my website," she said. "...I only see the President in events. They even don't know my name."
The media attention has turned her life upside down, Yang said. She said she's lost 15 pounds in recent weeks and has struggled to sleep and eat. "I'm so scared," she said.
Yang said she arrived in the U.S. in 1999 and has since gained her American citizenship. Asked how she chose the name Cindy, Yang offered an unexpected answer.
"Because I like Cindy Crawford," she said.
Cynthia McFadden is the senior legal and investigative correspondent for NBC News.
Anna Schecter is a producer for the investigations unit of NBC News.
Lisa Cavazuti is an associate producer for the NBC News Investigative Unit.
Rich Schapiro is a reporter for the NBC News Investigative Unit.