AP FACT CHECK: Trump and missions unaccomplished – Washington Post

 In U.S.

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump has a way of presenting missions as accomplished even when they’re not.

So it was when he told Iowans he’s put farmers back at their plows, secured a historic increase in military spending and empowered homebuilders to swing their hammers again. Those all remain aspirations, not achievements.

Trump is also known to propose something already in effect, as when he declared “the time has come” for a welfare moratorium for immigrants. President Bill Clinton signed such a moratorium into law in 1996.

A look at a variety of Trump’s statements from the public square over the past week:

TRUMP: “We’re thinking about building the wall as a solar wall so it creates energy and pays for itself. And this way, Mexico will have to pay much less money. And that’s good right? … Pretty good imagination, right? Good? My idea.” — in Iowa on Wednesday.

THE FACTS: His idea? Others came forward with such proposals back when he was criticizing solar power as too expensive.

The notion of adding solar panels to the wall he wants to build along the Mexico border was explored in a Wall Street Journal op-ed in March. Vasilis Fthenakis, director of the Center for Life Cycle Analysis at Columbia University, and Ken Zweibel, former director of the Solar Institute at George Washington University, concluded it was “not only technically and economically feasible, it might even be more practical than a traditional wall.”

They said a 2,000-mile solar wall could cost less than $1 billion, instead of tens of billions for a traditional border wall, and possibly become “wildly profitable.” The writers were studying a concept laid out by Homero Aridjis and James Ramey in the online World Post in December.

The idea also was proposed by one of the companies that submitted its design to the government as a border wall prototype. Las Vegas-based Gleason Partners proposed covering some sections of the wall with solar panels and said that selling electricity from it could eventually cover the cost of construction.

Trump repeatedly described solar power in the campaign as “very, very expensive” and “not working so good.”

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TRUMP: “So, we’ve achieved a historic increase in defense spending.” — Iowa speech.

THE FACTS: He hasn’t. He is proposing a large increase but Congress is still debating — and is nowhere near deciding on — more money for defense for 2018.

All that’s been achieved is a $25 billion increase for this year and there’s nothing remotely historic about that. The Pentagon has received annual budget increases equal to or greater than $25 billion seven times in the past 15 years alone.

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TRUMP: “The time has come for new immigration rules which say that those seeking admission into our country must be able to support themselves financially and should not use welfare for a period of at least five years. And we’ll be putting in legislation to that effect very shortly.” — Iowa speech.

THE FACTS: A federal law passed in 1996 already has that effect. It bars most foreigners who enter the country on immigrant visas from being eligible for federal benefits like Social Security and food stamps for the first five years. States typically have the authority to determine eligibility for local programs. As for people in the country illegally, they are generally prohibited from those benefits altogether. Same with foreigners who are in the U.S. on nonimmigrant visas.

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TRUMP: Addressing why he raised the possibility that his Oval Office conversation with fired FBI Director James Comey might have been recorded: “When he found out that I, you know, that there may be tapes out there, whether it’s governmental tapes or anything else, and who knows, I think his story may have changed.” — Fox News interview aired Friday.

THE FACTS: There’s no evidence of any change in what Comey testified on June 8 before the Senate Intelligence committee. In that appearance — the only time Comey has publicly addressed the subject — his story was consistent. He said that on three occasions beginning in January he’d told the president that he was not then the subject of an FBI counterintelligence investigation on him as part of its work to probe Russian influence on the 2016 presidential election.

Since then, it has been reported that Trump is under investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller over his May 9 firing of Comey and whether that or other actions by the president constitute obstruction of justice.

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TRUMP: “You see what we’ve already done. Homebuilders are starting to build again. We’re not confiscating their land with ridiculous rules and regulations that don’t make sense.” — Iowa speech.

THE FACTS: Housing starts as tracked by the Census Bureau have actually fallen over the past three months. Trump seems a bit mixed up on deregulation. Some of the biggest constraints on homebuilders come from local governments, rather than federal rules.

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TRUMP: On cutting regulations to help farmers: “Farmers are able to plow their field. If they have a puddle in the middle of their field, a little puddle the size of this, it’s considered a lake and you can’t touch it. And if you touch it, bad, bad things happen to you and your family. We got rid of that one, too, OK?” — Iowa speech

THE FACTS: He didn’t get rid of the regulations he’s talking about. He signed an executive order in February directing the Environmental Protection Agency to review a rule protecting clean water. The rule can stop some farmers from using pesticides and herbicides. It’s still in place, pending the review.

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TRUMP: “Former Homeland Security Advisor Jeh Johnson is latest top intelligence official to state there was no grand scheme between Trump & Russia.” — tweet Thursday.

THE FACTS: Johnson did not state that conclusion. He was homeland security secretary (not adviser) from December 2013 to January 2017. He was asked at a House Intelligence committee hearing Wednesday whether he knew of any evidence of collusion with Russia by the Trump campaign.

Johnson said he was not aware of any information beyond what’s been reported publicly and what the U.S. intelligence community has gathered. That is not a statement of belief that no collusion took place. Pressed on the matter, he said Comey probably had some information to go on when the FBI opened an investigation into possible collusion.

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TRUMP: “Unemployment is at a 16-year low.” — Iowa speech.

THE FACTS: Unemployment is indeed that low, at 4.3 percent.

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TRUMP: “We are 5 and 0, as you know, in these special elections. And I think the Democrats thought it would be a lot different than that. 5-0 is a big — that’s a big margin.” — Fox News interview aired Friday.

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