AP FACT CHECK: Trump on solar, taxes, welfare

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Donald Trump says the idea of putting solar panels on the wall he wants to build along the Mexico border sprang from his imagination. Actually, others proposed it, back when he was criticizing solar power as too expensive.

Trump’s speech in Iowa on Wednesday night was rife with misstatements. He claimed beneficial effects to the economy from actions he has not yet taken. He declared that the “time has come” for a welfare moratorium for immigrants that has been in place for two decades. He juiced up the tax burden on Americans beyond reality.

A look at some of his claims:

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.”

THE FACTS: His idea was to run with the idea of others.

The notion of adding solar panels to the border wall 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 Istitute 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: “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.”

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 non-immigrant visas.

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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.”

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: “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?”

THE FACTS: Trump appears to be referring to an executive order he signed in February that the Environmental Protection Agency review its rule on regulations to protect clean water. The rule can stop some farmers from using pesticides and herbicides. But Trump hasn’t overturned the rule at this stage as his remarks suggest.

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