What's Next for Steve Bannon? He Met With Trump Megadonor Robert Mercer Before Departure

Senior Counselor to the President Steve Bannon helps with last-minute preparations before President Donald Trump announces his decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement at the White House on June 1. On August 18, the White House announced that Bannon would be leaving the administration. Chip Somodevilla/Getty

Updated | Steve Bannon, who is leaving his role as chief strategist to President Donald Trump, met with Trump megadonor Robert Mercer this week, an informal adviser to the White House with knowledge of the meeting tells Newsweek. The source asked for anonymity because he is close with Bannon. Axios also reported that the meeting took place.

The New York Times first reported on Friday that Trump was planning to remove Bannon. Soon after, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders released a statement saying, "White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Steve Bannon have mutually agreed today would be Steve's last day. We are grateful for his service and wish him the best."

Related: Meet Trump Megadonor Robert Mercer

Mercer, co-CEO of the investment management company Renaissance Technologies, gave millions to Trump's campaign through the political action committee Make America Number 1. His daughter Rebekah ran the PAC and, after the election, joined Trump's presidential transition team. She is behind Trump's hiring of Bannon, according to many reports and a Republican fundraising insider who spoke with Newsweek.

Bannon and the younger Mercer have served together on the boards of at least two nonprofits, Reclaim New York and the Government Accountability Institute. They also produced at least one documentary together, Clinton Cash. The Mercers are part owners of Breitbart News Network, where Bannon was executive chairman until he left to join the White House.

The source with knowledge of this week's meeting told Newsweek that the get-together was likely to discuss Bannon's future plans. Despite the closeness between the Mercers and Bannon, such a meeting was rare, according to the source. His future plans could be tied to the Mercers, according to the Axios report.

Those plans will likely remain connected to the Trump agenda, according to Scot Vorse, Bannon's longtime friend and former business partner. "Steve is absolutely committed to the President Trump agenda," he says. "The question is going to be, is Steve more or less effective on the inside or outside helping the Trump agenda succeed?"

Bannon said as much Friday to the journalist Joshua Green, author of the recent book Devil'​s Bargain: Steve Bannon, Donald Trump and the Storming of the Presidency: "If there's any confusion out there, let me clear it up: I'm leaving the White House and going to war for Trump against his opponents—on Capitol Hill, in the media and in corporate America."

In April, when Bannon's future at the White House also seemed uncertain, Rebekah Mercer discussed possibilities for him if he left the administration, The New York Times reported at the time, citing two sources with knowledge of the meeting.

Bannon's announced departure has left his allies close to the White House shaken, according to the informal adviser. "It's very worrying," he says. "I think that Bannon has been really the intellectual and philosophical brain trust of the Trump movement. I think the president himself has amazing instincts and an amazing ability to campaign and connect to the people, but in terms of the intellectual framework of the movement, I think most of the credit there really belongs with Steve Bannon."

The adviser blamed "the globalists within the White House" for his ouster, adding, "This is a blow.... Everyone's just devastated by it. It's a hard one to take."

But there could be hope for the Bannon supporters. "Steve's job didn't change today," says Vorse, the longtime friend. "His job is to help make America great again, following the Trump campaign agenda, and now that's going to be outside the White House."

The ouster also suggests diminished power for the Mercers inside the White House, though the family is close with Kellyanne Conway, who remains counselor to the president.

This article has been updated to include comments from Steve Bannon and Scot Vorse.

Correction: This article previously incorrectly stated that the Mercers are top donors to Breitbart News Network. They are part owners of the outlet, not donors.