NEW YORK — Mr. Lev Parnas wanted to go to Washington — to be a spectator at President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial.
But that plan was dashed by Senate security regulations and a judge’s refusal to let the indicted businessman remove his court-ordered ankle monitor.
The Ukraine-born businessman, who has given House impeachment investigators reams of potential evidence for their case against the man he once lionized, got tickets for part of Wednesday afternoon’s trial session, his lawyer Joseph Bondy wrote in a Tuesday night court filing.
The seating arrangements came from the office of Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
“Like many other New York constituents, Mr. Bondy reached out and asked for gallery tickets, and we said yes,” confirmed Schumer spokesman Justin Goodman.
But it wasn’t simply a matter of grabbing the coveted passes and jumping on a plane. Parnas is wearing an electronic ankle monitor as he awaits trial on federal charges in New York. Senate rules for gallery spectators bar all types of electronics.
Parnas was indicted with three co-defendants in October on charges of funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars in foreign money to U.S. election candidates and committees to gain political influence.
They have pleaded not guilty to the charges, which include allegations that Parnas and a business associate falsified the source of a $325,000 contribution to a super PAC backing Trump.
Separately, Parnas and Fruman helped Giuliani seek potentially damaging information in Ukraine against the family of former Vice President Joe Biden, who is seeking the Democratic nomination to run against Trump in this year’s election.
Trump has repeatedly said he does not know Parnas. Bondy responded by tweeting a video showing his client with his arm on Trump’s shoulder during a gathering at Mar-a-Lago in Florida.
Bondy also released a smartphone recording of a dinner where Trump ordered the ouster of Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S ambassador to Ukraine, after Parnas claimed Yovanovitch had said Trump would be impeached. The veteran diplomat denied any disloyalty to Trump and his administration during House testimony that preceded the impeachment trial.
Manhattan U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken ordered Parnas, 47, to remain under home confinement in Florida, with 24-hour GPS monitoring, based on prosecutors’ arguments that Parnas poses a significant risk of fleeing before trial.
To attend the trial, Parnas first would have to fly to New York City, where he would get the ankle monitor removed, Bondy wrote in his request. That theoretically could have enabled Parnas to enter the Senate gallery.
The two would then have to return to New York to have the device put back in place before Parnas returned to Florida.
To the surprise of no one, prosecutors in the Southern District of New York opposed removing the monitor. However, they had no objection to Parnas attending the trial, Bondy wrote.
Nicholas Biase, a spokesman for Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman, declined to comment.
In a Solomon-like decision, Oetken awarded Parnas precisely half of what he requested.
“On consent of the government, the request for a modification of the terms of pretrial release to allow travel to and from Washington, D.C. on January 29, 2020, is granted,” the judge said in an order filed Tuesday night. “To the extent that it seeks the removal of the GPS monitoring device, the request is denied.”
Bondy quickly announced a Plan B.
“Although we couldn’t arrange to have Lev Parnas watch the trial with us because his GPS ankle monitor is not allowed, Lev will join us in DC tomorrow to show support for a fair trial, with witnesses & evidence,” the attorney tweeted Tuesday night.
Contributing: Christal Hayes