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Who Is Roger Stone?

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Roger Stone is also a self-described dirty trickster. The white-haired bespectacled Stone has been a force in conservative politics since the Nixon administration. In another part of the program, we hear more about Stone's relationship with the Trump campaign. But for more about Stone's rise in politics, we're going to turn now to NPR's Tim Mak. Tim, welcome to the studio.

TIM MAK, BYLINE: Thanks a lot.

CORNISH: So he's always been considered a character - right down to his look, right?

MAK: That's right. Roger Stone is a one-of-a-kind individual. He's got bright white hair. He lives in South Florida. He's always believed that a white shirt and a tan face equals confidence. He's very much at home in Miami where he spends a lot of time. And he's a flamboyant dresser. He's also got a tattoo he's very proud of - the face of Richard Nixon on his back.

CORNISH: Let's talk more about Nixon because that is the era - right? - where Stone first emerged on the political scene.

MAK: Obviously that had a lot of impact on him. He even raised his arms with his fingers in a victory sign...

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UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: Go Roger. Go Roger.

MAK: ...Evoking that memory of Nixon leaving the White House when he resigned. He did work for Nixon. And he was elected president of the Young Republicans when he was in college.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #1: Watergate dominated this convention because the Republican Party's important youth arm was about to be taken over by Roger Stone, a 25-year-old political operative.

MAK: And in the '70s, he helped pioneer the rise of campaign financing through outside political groups.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #2: Among the revolutionary changes in American politics the past few years has been the rise of the political action committees, called PACs.

MAK: He then went to work for Reagan in 1976 and 1980.

CORNISH: After this, he parlays his influence into a lobbying firm - with a name we might be familiar with now - Black, Manafort, Stone.

MAK: Yeah, they were a powerhouse in the 1980s.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #3: Joining us now are Roger Stone, who belongs to one of Washington's most successful consulting firms.

MAK: Unlike a lot of other lobbyists then, they were willing to work with unsavory characters and were paid handsomely.

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ROGER STONE: What we provide for our clients, be them foreign countries or corporations or individuals, is a superior understanding of how Washington works.

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UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER #4: Manafort of Black, Manafort, Stone and Kelly stands with his partners at the receiving end of $31 million in subsidies.

MAK: In 1992, the public watchdog group The Center for Public Integrity lists their firm as one of the lobbying firms to profit most by doing business with foreign governments that violated their people's human rights.

CORNISH: I want to talk then finally about his relationship with Donald Trump. How did they come together?

MAK: Well, they first met in 1979 in and around the time that Stone was working on the Reagan campaign. They've had an up-and-down relationship, but you get the sense that it has been one based on enduring respect. Stone has always been an informal adviser to Trump. He repeatedly urged Trump to run. He remained a very vocal supporter of the president and has said, even today, that he would never turn on Donald Trump.

CORNISH: That's NPR's Tim Mak. Thanks for your reporting.

MAK: Thanks a lot. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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