U.S. Rep. Ted Budd, R-NC13, along with U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-SC, joined former Trump administration officials on Oct. 17 in Charlotte for a discussion forum on national security issues currently facing the United States.

The event was hosted by the POLARIS National Security organization, whose mission according to their website involves advancing “a real vision of American leadership that advances true sources of American strength.” The site lays out several policy objectives tailored to meet the organization’s mission and is operated by former officials from the Trump administration.

The wide-ranging discussion, moderated by POLARIS founder Morgan Ortagus, who served as spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State under Trump, covered national security issues at the U.S. southern border, security concerns over the Chinese Communist Party, Iran, Afghanistan, and energy security.

Budd talked to the audience about his plan to combat drug smuggling and human trafficking issues at the southern border if elected to the U.S. Senate, with goals to support law enforcement and finish the border wall.

Turning to how national security is affected at the southern border as it relates to terrorism, Graham placed blame on the Biden administration’s withdrawal from Afghanistan in August of 2021.

“This all started with Afghanistan,” Graham said. “It is the most dangerous foreign policy decision made in decades. We abandoned our allies and allowed Afghanistan to fall back into the hands of the Taliban. Al Qaeda and ISIS are rising over there, and they want to come here. If you don’t think they want to come here, you’re not listening to what they’re saying and what they’re doing. The likelihood of another 9/11 type attack is as high as it’s been since 9/11. The combination of a broken border and disorder in the Middle East is a lethal combination. If we [Republicans] get the House and the Senate, the first bill coming out of the Senate should be to secure our border.”

Panelists also touched on threats posed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and their role in allowing the illicit drug Fentanyl to enter the U.S. Recent studies have shown that the principal source of Fentanyl entering the United States is linked to China and Mexico. Former U.S. Director of National Intelligence John Ratcliffe also participated in the discussion and called out the Biden administration for not recognizing the on-going threat.

“This administration’s failure to recognize China as an adversary when it comes to this issue is tragically killing Americans,” he said.

Discussing the threat of an Iranian regime with nuclear capabilities, Graham emphasized the importance for Republicans to regain control of both chambers of Congress in November in order to address the security issues involving Iran and their hostile government.

“The biggest destabilizing threat to the world writ large is religious Nazis in Iran with a nuclear weapon who will throw the world into chaos. If we get the House and the Senate, we can slow this down, maybe turn it around and set the stage for 2024,” Graham said.

Budd finished his closing remarks with a call to move away from the policies of President Joe Biden.

“If China, Russia, North Korea, and Iran could pick dream policies so they could defeat us, they would pick the policies the Joe Biden administration and my opponent, Cheri Beasley would pick,” Budd said. “What we need to get away from are these Biden ‘America Last’ policies which are hurting all of us, and we need to get back to the framework of ‘America First.’ It’s not about a personality; it’s about remembering, not America alone in the world, because we sure need our allies, but we need America First as our policies. That fixes all of the issues we are facing right now.”

Several local Republican leaders and candidates were present at the event. CJ spoke with N.C. Republican Party Chairman Michael Whatley, who believes the Republican Party is ready and willing to address national security challenges facing the U.S.

“I think it shows that the Republican Party is very focused on national security and homeland security issues,” Whatley said. “We’ve had a great round up of speakers, and I was really glad to see the former director of National Intelligence here from the Trump administration as well as Morgan and Lindsey Graham. Ted is ready on Day 1 to hit the ground running when it comes to national security and homeland security, and those are issues that tend to get overlooked but are absolutely critical for the country moving forward.”

Republican Party county chairpersons Addul Ali of Cabbarus County and Sarah Reidy-Jones of Mecklenburg County were in attendance and told CJ at the event that the speakers did a phenomenal job informing the audience on issues critical to the U.S.

“I thought Lindsey Graham and John Ratcliffe did a great job as well as Ms. Ortagus,” Ali said. I think it’s evident that Budd is ready to do the job as U.S. Senator.”

Reidy-Jones emphasized the importance of voters being informed about the issues when heading to the polls to cast their votes, saying, “It’s so important for people in Charlotte and in this area to understand just how important national security is, so it’s wonderful to hear the implications of why voting Republican matters especially for a U.S. Senate seat. It is crucial that we educate voters on the issues foreign policy, national security, and border security.”

After the event, Ortagus herself spoke to CJ, saying, “The fact that Congressman Budd, Senator Graham, and John Ratcliffe participated shows the seriousness of national security informed policy issues. Everyone thinks that on the campaign trail that you just have to throw red meat out there and get the crowd hyped up. I think it shows here in North Carolina that people care about substance. They care about what’s happening with Iran; they care about the threat of China. With Afghanistan, the fall of Kabul to the Taliban and our embarrassing and deadly withdrawal for Americans changed the Biden administration forever from that point on. So I think Americans are in tune now more than ever with what’s going on around the world and our place in it.”