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March 21, 2016

John Oliver kicked off his main story on Sunday's Last Week Tonight making fun of Donald Trump's U.S.-Mexico border wall (and hands). But after about a minute, he did something much less predictable. "The border wall is one of the few policy proposals Trump has talked about in detail, so instead of mocking it or dismissing it out of hand, tonight let's take a serious proposal by a serious presidential candidate seriously," he said. Setting aside "the potential racism and xenophobia involved here... let's focus on the practicality of whether and how it can actually be done."

Oliver started with the cost, which Trump has gradually raised from $4 billion to $12 billion. In fact, it will cost at least $25 billion, excluding land and maintenance, Oliver said. Trump's solution is to get Mexico to pay for it, something Mexico obviously says it won't do. "To be fair here, Trump has thought through how he will get Mexico to foot the bill," Oliver said, but his rationale — using the trade deficit as leverage — is "literally not how anything works." He explained why.

Still, Oliver continued, "let's say we did find the money. Where would we put a border wall?" That sounds simple, but it isn't. When George W. Bush signed into law a border wall law in 2006, the feds had to use eminent domain to grab ranchers' lands, further endanger vulnerable species, and cut through Indian burial grounds. "Trump might well argue that having a wall is worth all of this, because it will work as a fortress to keep people and drugs from flowing across the border," Oliver said, before tearing that argument down.

"But let's face it," he finished: "For many people, efficacy is beside the point. This wall is about making us feel safer." After returning briefly to "the racism and xenophobia that we put aside at the top," Oliver made his final pitch: The conservative estimate of $25 billion comes out to $77 per person, so why not buy every American a waffle iron? It is a stupid plan, he admits, "but is it significantly stupider than Donald Trump's wall?" What kind of America do we want to live in? he asked, bringing it home. "One that spends billions on an impossible, impractical symbol of fear, or one that smells like breakfast?" There are parts that may be unsuitable for children or work viewing, but otherwise, watch below. Peter Weber

8:47 p.m.

Two weeks after Election Day, the final results are in for Utah's 4th congressional district, with Democrat Ben McAdams defeating incumbent Republican Rep. Mia Love by fewer than 700 votes, The Associated Press projects.

Love is the first and only black female Republican in Congress, and was seeking a third term. About 269,000 votes were cast in the election, and had Love received 20 more votes, under state law she would have been able to request a recount.

A Utah native, McAdams ran as a moderate in the solidly red state. He practiced law in New York before returning to Utah, and was elected to state Legislature in 2008. He now serves as mayor of Salt Lake County. Catherine Garcia

8:06 p.m.

Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-Ohio) announced on Tuesday she will not challenge Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for the role of speaker of the House and is offering her endorsement.

"I now join my colleagues in support of the leadership team of Pelosi, [Rep. Steny] Hoyer, and [Rep. James] Clyburn," she said in a statement. Pelosi, Hoyer, and Clyburn are the three highest-ranking Democrats.

Fudge said she was concerned about "voter protection and voter integrity," and the Democratic Party "should reflect the diversity of our changing nation and guarantee all our citizens the unfettered right to vote and to have every vote count." Pelosi, she said, has "assured me that the most loyal voting bloc in the Democratic Party, black women, will have a seat at the decision-making table" and "protections of the Voting Rights Act will be reinstated and improved."

Last week, 16 Democrats signed a letter saying they will oppose Pelosi for speaker. So far, no challengers have emerged, with House Democrats set to vote to select a nominee next week. Catherine Garcia

7:36 p.m.

President Trump has given Special Counsel Robert Mueller written responses to questions asked about Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election, Trump's lawyers said Tuesday.

Attorney Jay Sekulow said copies of the questions and Trump's answers, as well as correspondence between Trump's legal team and Mueller's office, will not be released to the public. Another attorney, Rudy Giuliani, said it is now "time to bring this inquiry to a conclusion." This is the first time Trump has directly cooperated with the probe, The Associated Press reports.

It took about a year for Mueller's office and Trump's attorneys to reach the compromise of Trump answering Russia-related questions without having to appear for a sit-down interview. Part of the compromise included Mueller setting aside for the time being questions about obstruction of justice in relation to the firing of former FBI Director James Comey, AP reports. Catherine Garcia

6:46 p.m.

The Department of Homeland Security is paying undercover informants inside the migrant caravan headed to the southern border, two DHS officials told NBC News on Tuesday.

There are about 4,000 migrants in the caravan, most of them from Central America, and to communicate, they are using WhatsApp to text. DHS personnel are monitoring those messages, the officials said, as well as working with the Mexican government to keep track of the size of the caravan and any possible security threats.

On Monday, DHS announced that on Sunday night, it had gathered intelligence indicating that some migrants planned on running through the lanes at the border crossing near San Diego. The northbound lanes were closed for three hours, and no migrants attempted to rush through.

It's not known how much the Department of Homeland Security is spending on the informants. In a statement, DHS spokeswoman Katie Waldman told NBC News the department has "an obligation to ensure we know who is crossing our borders, to protect against threats to the homeland, and any indication to the contrary is misinformed." Catherine Garcia

5:37 p.m.

Former White House Counsel Don McGahn apparently had a very hard time convincing President Trump to leave Hillary Clinton and James Comey alone.

This spring, Trump told McGahn he "wanted to order the Justice Department to prosecute" the former secretary of state and former FBI director, two sources tell The New York Times. McGahn immediately shut the president down, reportedly saying he didn't have the power to order a prosecution. Trump could try investigating his political rivals, McGahn said, but that could "prompt accusations of abuse of power" and potential impeachment charges, the Times writes. McGahn then reportedly made White House lawyers wrap up all that advice in an official memo.

But McGahn's words didn't seem to sink in. Trump has "continued to privately discuss the matter, including the possible appointment of a second special counsel" to investigate Comey and Clinton, the Times writes. The president had also reportedly hoped his FBI Director Chris Wray would take action against Clinton, but Wray let him down.

It's unclear what Trump exactly would like to prosecute Comey and Clinton for. But the matter displays how Trump "views the typically independent Justice Department as a tool to be wielded against his political enemies," the Times writes — something that could become particularly relevant with the appointment of loyalist Matt Whitaker as acting attorney general.

The White House declined to comment to the Times. McGahn's lawyer would not comment on any legal advice relayed to the president, but said to McGahn's knowledge, "the president never ... ordered that anyone prosecute" Clinton or Comey. Read more at The New York Times. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:27 p.m.

Mississippi Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R) may have lost Walmart's support over a so-called joke about lynching. But President Trump is still firmly on her side.

Trump has already scheduled two campaign rallies for the Republican, whose previously easy race in a runoff election against Democrat Mike Espy has started looking tighter. And on Tuesday, Trump called Hyde-Smith "spectacular" and suggested he'd hold three rallies for her if he could — just after Politico dug up some photos of her in a confederate soldier's hat.

Hyde-Smith first walked into trouble last week after a video showed her saying that if a supporter "invited me to a public hanging, I'd be on the front row." Espy's campaign called her comments "reprehensible," but Hyde-Smith said they were taken out of context. Another video captured her suggesting voter suppression was "a great idea" in what her campaign said was a joke.

After the first round of dust had settled, a photo of Hyde-Smith in a Confederate soldier's hat and toting a musket surfaced. The photo came from Hyde-Smith's public Facebook post of her time at the Jefferson Davis Home and Presidential Library, a visit she described as "Mississippi history at its best!"

It's unclear if Trump saw the Confederate picture before he commented about her to reporters on Tuesday. Still, he said Hyde-Smith "feels very badly about" some unspecified comment, but added that "it was just sort of said in jest," per the Toronto Star's Daniel Dale. Kathryn Krawczyk

5:21 p.m.

In very important chocolate spread news, market leader Nutella will soon be facing a serious competitor.

Barilla, an Italian company whose blue pasta boxes you probably recognize from supermarket shelves, plans to release a chocolate spread called Crema Pan di Stelle next year, reports Reuters.

The move to compete with Ferrero, the company that makes Nutella, is part of a burgeoning, delicious rivalry between the two Italian companies. The competition really began to heat up when sources said Ferrero would release a biscuit filled with Nutella in 2019, similar to Barilla's established line of cookies, Baiocchi, Reuters reports.

Barilla will try to get a spoon up on the competition by producing chocolate spread made with sunflower oil. Nutella has faced backlash for using palm oil in its recipe after the ingredient was deemed a "potential health concern," reports CNN.

Barilla's take on the chocolate and hazelnut goodness will feature a crunch, thanks to the addition of Pan di Stelle cookie crumbles, reports Reuters. Crema Pan di Stelle could launch in Italy as early as January, but industry experts say it could cost the company millions of euros to convince stores to display the new spread with the same prominence as Nutella. No word yet on when consumers in the U.S. will be able to try the new spread and help decide who should come out on top in the Italian sweet treat rivalry. Read more at Reuters. Taylor Watson

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