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How Kentucky Governor Andy Beshear Is Preparing For Threats In The State

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Washington, D.C., is bracing for what might happen as Wednesday's inauguration approaches. States around the country are also on alert against attacks by extremists. They're boarding up windows, fortifying government buildings in their capitals and also calling out the National Guard.

We're joined now by the Democratic governor of Kentucky, Andy Beshear. Governor, thanks so much for being with us.

ANDY BESHEAR: Thanks for having me.

SIMON: May I ask if you heard specific, credible threats to your capital, Frankfort?

BESHEAR: What we are hearing are threats made generally and sometimes specifically against capitals all over the United States. And my commitment as the governor of Kentucky is that we will not let what happened at the U.S. Capitol happen here. And to do that takes two things - No. 1, being prepared with sufficient personnel and, No. 2, recognizing these folks for what they are. They are domestic terrorists. It's time that we stop playing patty-cake with so-called militias, acting like they're just dressed up for Halloween. They are dangerous, and we've got to treat them as such.

SIMON: I've read in the Kentucky Press, Governor, that as of close of business Friday, no groups or people have applied for demonstration permits. And if that's the case, if people show up saying that they just want to, you know, exercise their First Amendment rights, are you going to tell the Kentucky State Police to regard them as trespassers?

BESHEAR: Well, since no one has legally applied for a permit, which you have to do to demonstrate on the Capitol grounds, those who show up attempting to we will view with serious concern. It certainly shows that the folks aren't going through the regular process to exercise their First Amendment rights, and we will treat it as such. And when we have specific, credible threats or general threats against the Capitol and people show up without filing that permit, well, it allows you to certainly view them with real skepticism.

SIMON: And what kind of resources are you deploying? Can you tell us?

BESHEAR: Well, we'll have our Kentucky State Police. We'll have our Frankfort, which is the local police. And we'll have the National Guard. Now, we're not going to tell those that would try to harm us what our game plan is, but we are going to be prepared.

SIMON: You're a Democratic governor in a state that voted overwhelmingly for Donald Trump. How do you see, explain, live with that divide among Kentuckians?

BESHEAR: Well, I think that, you know, people are more complicated than we talk about them in the press. We have folks that have frustrations and anxieties. We have folks that care deeply about certain issues that sometimes are viewed as Democratic or Republican.

But right now, with our U.S. Capitol having been attacked and not by a foreign opponent or operative like the War of 1812, but by domestic terrorists, it's time that all of us, including everybody in Kentucky, be Americans before Democrats and Republicans and condemn and repudiate these type of attacks and these type of groups that every single moment - now is the time where we have to stop this through swift condemnation, or this becomes the new normal. That would be a scary America.

SIMON: Governor Beshear, of course, these events are rolling by and in our face just as the number of deaths from the coronavirus have never been higher. Last week, lawmakers in your state passed bills that would limit your power to impose restrictions aimed at trying to contain the virus. How do you contend with that? What do things look like in Kentucky? What about the vaccine rollout?

BESHEAR: Well, in Kentucky, we have been aggressive in our mitigation steps, and sometimes that's required serious and significant sacrifice by small businesses and individuals. But when you look at our deaths per capita, per population, we've done better than all of our neighbors, losing half the people of Tennessee and less than a quarter of North and South Dakota. So any attempts to take away or limit our abilities to save lives is dangerous.

Now, our vaccine rollout is getting better and better each and every week. We were just recognized as one of the top states. And this last week, we actually vaccinated more people than we received doses. So my concern moving forward isn't our ability to vaccinate; it's the actual supply of vaccines we get from the federal government.

SIMON: Andy Beshear is the governor of Kentucky. Governor, thanks so much for speaking with us.

BESHEAR: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.