Severe storms in Texas and Disney’s new marketing strategy: Morning Rundown

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At least four people are dead after severe storms hit Houston. Two Border Patrol officials already under investigation for ties to a tequila mogul are now being investigated for their links to a prominent businessman. And new research may solve the mystery of Egypt’s pyramids.

Here’s what to know today.

Border Patrol officials who partied with tequila mogul face further scrutiny

Two top Border Patrol officials who are being investigated for their ties to a Mexican tequila mogul are under new scrutiny after sources say they also attended parties hosted by a wealthy businessman involved in cross-border trade, raising questions about whether there is a conflict of interest.

Chief of Border Patrol, Chief Jason Owens, center, and Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol sector chief Gloria Chavez, center left, at Tequila Casa de los González.
Chief of Border Patrol, Chief Jason Owens, center, and Rio Grande Valley Border Patrol sector chief Gloria Chavez, center left, at Tequila Casa de los González.@mindmexico via Instagram

NBC News previously reported that Border Patrol Chief Jason Owens and Rio Grande Valley sector head Gloria Chavez partied with Francisco González, who wanted to make a Border Patrol-branded tequila to celebrate the agency’s 100th anniversary. Two sources familiar with the relationship said Owens and Chavez are also among officials now being investigated over ties to Mexican American businessman Eduardo Garza.

The sources said Garza hosted Border Patrol officials at three events on his ranch near Laredo, Texas, and hosted a smaller group of officials in Mexico for two other events. Garza, a prominent and politically active figure in the Texas border town, owns Uni-Trade, which advises international companies on “global transportation, foreign trade and customs.” 

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Professional Responsibility is now investigating whether the officials fully disclosed their contacts with Garza or everything Garza provided to them. 

Through his attorney, Garza said he has “never paid for any travel or transportation” for Chavez or Owens and said he has “hosted a number of celebrations for various reasons at his home.”

Read the full story here.

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4 dead as severe storms hit Houston area

Four people have died and over 790,000 homes and businesses were without power in Texas after severe storms slammed the Houston area last night. Two of the deaths were caused by fallen trees and one was from a crane accident, Houston Fire Chief Samuel Peña said. No information was provided on the fourth death.

The heavy rains and powerful storms also flooded streets and busted windows and glass on downtown buildings. Mayor John Whitmire said the city saw “80, 90, 100 mile per hour storms” and “some twisters.” Here’s what else we know. 

Trump trial: Fireworks during Cohen cross-examination

Donald Trump’s attorneys continued their efforts to paint his former lawyer Michael Cohen as a liar in the former president’s hush money trial. Things got heated at points, like when Trump lawyer Todd Blanche grilled Cohen about details of a 2016 phone call, which Cohen testified was about “the Stormy Daniels matter.” Blanche insisted the call was actually about a 14-year-old who Cohen complained had been prank calling him.

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Cohen said he “believed he was telling the truth,” but Blanche snapped. “We are not asking for your belief.” Read more highlights from Day 18 of the trial.

There is no court today so Trump can attend his son Barron’s high school graduation, and the end of the trial is drawing near. Blanche said he expects to finish his cross-examination of Cohen by mid-morning Monday, and Judge Juan Merchan told attorneys on both sides to be prepared to begin their closing arguments on Tuesday.

Disney taps American influencers to promote international parks

A huge expansion at Tokyo Disney Resort, which is slated to open next month, includes new lands and attractions modeled after hit movies like “Frozen” and “Tangled.” To get the word out, the company is relying, in part, on its most valuable fans: content creators — specifically, U.S.-based creators who share travel tips, updates and slices of life in the parks with their large online followings. The invitations to U.S. fan media indicates an evolution in Disney’s goals

Disney’s push for American visitors abroad mirrors similar efforts to attract homegrown fans to other countries. For example, Paris La Defense Arena said Americans made up more than a quarter of ticket sales for Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour.

New research could solve the mystery behind the construction of Egypt’s pyramids

egypt giza pyramids camels tourists
Hassan Ammar / AP file

The pyramids in and around Giza have presented a fascinating puzzle for millennia. 

How did ancient Egyptians move limestone blocks, some weighing more than a ton, without using wheels? Why were these burial structures seemingly built in the remote and inhospitable desert? 

New research offers a possible answer, providing new evidence that an extinct branch of the Nile River once weaved through the landscape in a much wetter climate. Dozens of Egyptian pyramids across a 40-mile-long range rimmed the waterway, the study says, including the best-known complex in Giza. Read more about how the river could have allowed the pyramids to be built — and what caused it to disappear.

U.S. military says trucks have started bringing aid into Gaza over American-constructed pier

Trucks carrying desperately needed humanitarian aid have begun moving ashore into Gaza using a temporary pier built by the United States as Israeli forces pressed on with sweeping operations in the north and south of the enclave.

“No U.S. troops went ashore in Gaza,” U.S. Central Command said. “This is an ongoing, multinational effort to deliver additional aid to Palestinian civilians in Gaza via a maritime corridor that is entirely humanitarian in nature,” it added, noting that aid was being donated by several countries and humanitarian organizations.

It comes less than a day after the U.S. successfully towed its floating dock system to the shores of the Palestinian enclave, where Israel’s military assault has shut off a number of crossings that are crucial for supplies of food, fuel and other aid.

Steve Kornacki’s guide to the Preakness

Photo illustration of horse named "Mystik Dan," Steve Kornacki, and Preakness sign
Leila Register / NBC News; Getty Images

Step aside, red roses, it’s time for some black-eyed Susans. Two weeks removed from the Kentucky Derby, the Triple Crown now heads to its middle jewel at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. There has already been a massive, race-altering development, with the news that Bob Baffert-trained Muth won’t be running. So it looks like Derby winner Mystik Dan will likely be the favorite heading into Saturday’s race.

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But can Mystik Dan pull off another win? What happens if it rains? NBC News and MSNBC chief political correspondent, election data guru and horse racing enthusiast Steve Kornacki wrote a guide to the Preakness, laying out the odds, the horses to watch and his pick to win. See the stats here.

Politics in Brief

Chaotic House meeting: A House Oversight Committee meeting held last night was supposed to center around a resolution recommending Attorney Merrick Garland be held in contempt of Congress, but it devolved into personal attacks between Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jasmine Crockett and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Splintered support for Israel: The Republican-led House passed a bill that would put restrictions on President Biden’s ability to withhold weapons transfers to Israel. Though the vote was largely symbolic, it drew attention to a divided Democratic caucus on the war in Gaza.

Marijuana reclassification: The Justice Department took a “major” step in its process to reclassify marijuana and remove it from a category in which it has been treated as more dangerous than fentanyl and meth.

Want more politics news?  Sign up for From the Politics Desk to get exclusive reporting and analysis delivered to your inbox every weekday evening. Subscribe here.

Staff Pick: The Satanic Temple is saying hell no to Christian nationalism

The Satanic Temple, a designated religion by the IRS which does not actually believe the devil is real, is known for trolling right-wing activists. In response, it has received numerous threats and an attempted bombing. And as the Temple has achieved wins in court, it has become a formidable opponent to Christian nationalists who want to put prayer in public education. Now, its ministers will soon be working in public schools thanks to a slew of bills to add chaplains to school districts. “Basically fighting fire with fire,” as one Satanic minister put it. — Tyler Kingkade, national investigative reporter

Select: Online Shopping, Simplified

Shopping for a TV can be daunting, so our editors broke down the pros and cons of brands like Sony, Samsung, LG and more. See the rundown here. And if you want your TV to sound as good as it looks, check out the best TV speakers to improve your home audio experience.  

Sign up to The Selection newsletter for exclusive reviews and shopping content from NBC Select.

Thanks for reading today’s Morning Rundown. Today’s newsletter was curated for you by Elizabeth Robinson. If you’re a fan, please send a link to your family and friends. They can sign-up here.

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