President Donald Trump called the intelligence-community whistleblower a “partisan whistleblower” and “almost a spy,” and he denounced the complaint as a “political hack job.” Meanwhile, his own director of National Intelligence stated that the whistleblower acted within the law and in good faith.

This illustrated several points.

The first is that Trump is unfit for office. Those who report government wrongdoing risk everything to do what they believe is right. Trump’s comments demonstrated contempt for federal law and the whistleblower without even knowing the whistleblower’s identity. It is deplorable that the president would smear those exercising their legal rights at great risk to themselves. His contempt makes him unfit to serve.

\u0009The incident also illustrated what all whistleblowers face. Despite a thin, weak cloak of legal protection on paper, most suffer severe repercussions for their actions, regardless of the outcome of their complaints. Reputations, careers, and lives are ruined. It is typical for the wrongdoer to smear, falsely accuse, and discredit the person who has risked losing everything to come forward. The damage to whistleblowers is often severe, but the wrongdoers typically walk away unscathed to continue their careers without interruption.

Under dubious interpretations of Minnesota whistleblower law, those who report suspected violations of law in good faith often have been left unprotected by courts if their understanding of law was in error. This is outrageous. Nobody who reports government wrongdoing in good faith should suffer retaliation. We need much stronger protection for Minnesota’s whistleblowers. They are our first line of defense against corruption.

We also need laws ensuring that those who engage in government whistleblower retaliation are disqualified from elected office and barred from management in the civil service. Like Trump, they are unfit to serve.

Wayne Steffens

Two Harbors