On the weekend of Oct. 10, President Trump’s personal lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani, his former adviser Stephen K. Bannon and a prominent new ally, a Chinese billionaire and Mar-a-Lago member named Guo Wengui, gathered at Mr. Guo’s luxury apartment overlooking Central Park for dinner and cigars.
Each faced some combination of legal or credibility issues, but on this night they had reason to celebrate: a plan was coming together.
That weekend, Mr. Giuliani had delivered to The New York Post a copy of a hard drive purported to be from a laptop belonging to Hunter Biden, the son of Mr. Trump’s Democratic opponent, former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. The hard drive was filled with what the men claimed was compromising material about the younger Biden that they hoped would sully his father’s reputation.
It was the latest in an often-bumbling series of attacks that began two years ago with the goal of undercutting Mr. Biden as a threat to Mr. Trump’s re-election by linking him to the messy personal and business affairs of his son.
The main impact of the attacks to that point had been a spectacular backfire: the impeachment of Mr. Trump for trying to strong-arm the Ukrainian government into announcing an investigation into the Bidens. And despite the efforts of Mr. Giuliani, who engineered the Ukrainian pressure campaign, Mr. Biden went on to win the Democratic nomination and to build a consistent lead in the polls against Mr. Trump.