Pennsylvania U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey applauded America's intelligence community and his counterpart, Sen. Bob Casey, urged the release of more details Wednesday in separate news conferences on the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani on Jan. 3.
Casey, a Democrat, wanted to know about the imminent threat that precipitated the action but said it was not "sufficiently addressed" during a 90-minute briefing by members of the Trump administration on Wednesday.
"What I didn't hear was an answer to the basic question — what was the nature of the imminent threat? — and what considerations were weighed in terms of upside and downside of a strike that killed Soleimani?" Casey said. "I was surprised that those who gave the briefing didn't know this was a major question on the minds of senators, I think from both parties.
"A lot of senators left the briefing without their questions answered," Casey said. "But the briefers have made a commitment to come back and answer questions, at a time yet to be determined."
Toomey said the context in which President Trump's decision was made to "take out" Iranian General Qassem Soleimani "is very important. We need to keep in mind what a dangerous pariah state Iran has chosen to be by virtue of its leadership. It is without a doubt the world's number one state sponsor of terrorism."
It is very hard, Toomey said, "to overstate the centrality of Soleimani's role in all of Iran's malicious behavior, especially outside the borders of Iran."
Toomey noted a recent acceleration of hostility and an increase in imminent risk — although he said he could not go into details about that. Toomey did cite several recent attacks on Americans by proxies that were directed, he said, "directly by Soleimani."
"When our intelligence services learned they were planning an even more dramatic series of attacks on Americans," Toomey said, "and that it would be occurring very soon, it would have been irresponsible not to respond to that."
This is why the president did the right thing, Toomey said. "The killing maximized the chances that we would disrupt or prevent these imminent attacks."
Meanwhile, Casey on Wednesday co-signed a resolution that would re-assert Congressional power to declare war and prevent the president from going to war with Iran without Congressional authorization. "It is noteworthy that this resolution does not prevent the United States from defending itself from imminent attack," Casey added.
Pennsylvanians in combat have paid the price, wounded, some permanently, in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, "and I want to make sure that any administration and any Congress that might be contemplating a war with Iran that it is done pursuant to Constitutional directives."
But the President does have considerable executive powers that allow him to defend the country without Congressional approval, said Nick Clark, Susquehanna University associate professor of political science. "Most presidents would not seek Congressional authorization before launching a counter retaliation when we have been attacked."
President Obama did not have such authorization to take out Osama bin Laden, Clark said.
"So I feel like the President is on legally-safe ground with this," he said. "While one might argue he should not have approved the strike, I do not think one can argue that he did not have the right to do so.
"The question likely will be less whether he had the legal right to do this and more whether the evidence justified the attack. And nobody can speak to that, as we do not have access to the evidence."