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Whistleblowers in America and the price they pay

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People stand in front of the White House on Sept. 30, 2013 in Washington, DC.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The idea that everyday people can hold the powerful to account is woven into the very fabric of American democracy. Congress passed its first whistleblower protection law in 1778, after members of Commodore Esek Hopkins’ crew alleged the first commander in chief of the U.S. Navy was torturing British prisoners of war and using the conflict for his own personal gain as a slave runner.

But while the practice of whistleblowing was established as a matter of public benefit, it can also be a lonely business. Many whistleblowers say their lives were profoundly changed the moment they decided to report on corruption.

MPR News host Kerri Miller examined America's conflicted history with whistleblowing — and how our past affects how we view the whistleblowers at the heart of President Trump's impeachment inquiry today.