Seeking Reset, Trump Dines With Some of His Biggest Donors

Mr. Mercer’s presence was noteworthy, since the White House confirmed Friday that Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen K. Bannon, had been ousted. Mr. Mercer has long funded the political and business activities of Mr. Bannon, who was brought onto Mr. Trump’s campaign at the recommendation of Mr. Mercer’s daughter, Rebekah Mercer.

A source familiar with the dinner said that Mr. Bannon’s future was not a topic of conversation.

But the day before the dinner, Mr. Bannon and Mr. Mercer huddled for hours at Mr. Mercer’s Long Island estate to discuss possible ventures.

In a statement, Rebekah Mercer said she and her father were “ecstatic to have him back at the helm of Breitbart News, where he will continue to fight for personal liberties and against an elite establishment that seeks, above all else, to amass its own power at the expense of the people.” Two people close to the Mercers said they never favored Mr. Bannon being in the White House, and they noted that their support for Mr. Trump came late in the campaign.

Other donors also were invited to Thursday’s dinner but did not attend, including Paul Singer, the New York hedge fund billionaire.

He declined the invitation weeks ago because he was going to be on vacation, according to one of the people familiar with the planning of the event.

Mr. Singer, who ardently opposed Mr. Trump during the Republican primary, seemed to warm to the new president after his election. He donated more than $1 million to the committees funding Mr. Trump’s transition and inauguration and visited Mr. Trump at least twice in the White House.

But Mr. Singer also is a major donor to Jewish causes, including the Republican Jewish Coalition, which criticized Mr. Trump this week over his response to the events in Charlottesville. In a statement, the coalition called on the president “to provide greater moral clarity in rejecting racism, bigotry, and anti-Semitism.”

Mr. Singer’s representatives did not respond to a request for comment on whether he felt similarly about Mr. Trump’s response to the Charlottesville white supremacist rally, at which a counterprotester was killed after a car plunged into the crowd.

Representatives for Mr. Mercer, Mr. Craft and Ms. Hendricks did not respond to requests for comment.

The White House did not respond to questions about whether the Charlottesville rally and aftermath were discussed.

But people familiar with the dinner cast it as part of an ongoing series of donor-outreach events headlined by Mr. Trump and Vice President Mike Pence to cultivate and maintain support for the administration’s agenda from wealthy activists who have the capacity to fund conservative advocacy groups that seek to influence policy debates.

White House allies were disappointed with what they considered insufficient support from those groups for the failed Republican effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act. The White House has worked assiduously to cultivate more support from advocacy groups and their donors ahead of a push to overhaul the tax code. Their support could be even more critical if businesses and trade groups, which might otherwise support tax reform, hold back out of concern of affiliating with Mr. Trump.