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Deadly Mexico ambush, Trump's taxes and a second chance for Oklahomans: The Morning Rundown

A Mexican senator called the ambush "a despicable, merciless and savage act" in a tweet.
President Trump departs Washington for travel to Kentucky at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland
President Donald Trump battle to keep his taxes private may go all the way to the Supreme Court. Yuri Gripas / Reuters

Good morning, NBC News readers.

An American tragedy in Mexico, President Donald Trump's fight to shield his taxes from prying eyes, and a second chance for some Oklahomans.

Here's what we're watching today.

At least nine Americans, including children, were killed in a highway ambush in Mexico

Three cars traveling in a motorcade were shot at and one was set on fire in the ambush late Monday, killing at least nine U.S. citizens, relatives of some of the victims told NBC News.

The dead included 8-month-old twins and several other children, a family member said.

The ambush happened in the Mexican border state of Sonora.The victims lived in La Mora, which is about 75 miles south of the U.S. border, where an offshoot of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints has been a major presence for many years, relatives said.

Claudia Pavlovich Arellano, the governor of Sonora, said on Twitter late Monday that "as a mother," she was filled with deep pain by "the cowardly acts in the mountains between Sonora and Chihuahua."

"I don't know what kind of monsters dare to hurt women and children," Pavlovich said.

Trump's battle to keep his taxes private may go all the way to the Supreme Court

A federal appeals court ruled Monday that the president's tax returns must be turned over to Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance.

The documents have been subpoenaed from Trump's accounting firm as part of an investigation into the pre-election payoffs to two women who alleged affairs with him.

Jay Sekulow, the president's lawyer, said he will appeal the case to the Supreme Court.

But Trump's case will likely face strong headwinds at the Supreme Court, NBC News Justice Correspondent Pete Williams writes in a news analysis.

The Supreme Court has upheld subpoenas directed at presidents, which is one reason the court might simply decline to hear Trump’s appeal, leaving the appeals court ruling intact and requiring that the president's tax returns be turned over.

Ousted Ukraine ambassador told to 'go big or go home' in showing support for Trump to save her job

Marie Yovanovitch, the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, told House impeachment investigators last month that U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland told her she should tweet out support or praise for Trump if she wanted to save her job, according to a transcript of her testimony made public Monday.

"He said, 'You know, you need to go big or go home. You need to, you know, tweet out there that you support the president, and that all these are lies and everything else,'" Yovanovitch said.

"It was advice that I did not see how I could implement in my role as an ambassador, and as a Foreign Service officer."

As the Trump impeachment inquiry moves into a more public phase, the three House committees leading the probe released the transcript of Yovanovitch's testimony, as well as the deposition of former Ambassador Michael McKinley, who recently resigned as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s senior adviser.

Transcripts of the committee's interviews with Sondland and former U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker are expected to be released Tuesday.

EXCLUSIVE: 'Defeated' ISIS has found safe haven in an ungoverned part of Iraq

Despite the fact that Trump declared "100 percent of the ISIS Caliphate" defeated, the group is roaming freely in a remote, ungoverned part of Iraq, military officials say.

"The fight against ISIS is continuous," said U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. William Seely, commander of Task Force-Iraq. "We’re seeing ISIS fighters move from Syria across hundreds of miles of desert."

Gen. Sirwan Barzani, the commander of the Kurdish peshmerga forces, has a unique view of the situation because he operates a remote outpost atop a mountain that overlooks the valley where the ISIS militants can be seen moving around on motorcycles and driving pickup trucks.

"They have some tunnels, they have some caves," Barzani said about the ISIS fighters. "And they are moving — especially at night, they are free."

'This is the first day of the rest of your life': Hundreds of Oklahoma inmates set free

More than 450 nonviolent offenders in Oklahoma were released from prison Monday in what the governor's office calls the largest single-day mass commutation in the nation's history.

Many of the inmates had been jailed for drug possession, which, along with low-level property crimes, was a felony until 2016. That was when voters fed up with Oklahoma's rate of incarceration — the highest in the nation — voted to reclassify them as misdemeanors.

"It's such an honor to be with my fellow Oklahomans outside the walls of Eddie Warrior Correctional Center," Gov. Kevin Stitt said as he greeted the approximately 70 women released from the facility Monday.

"We're behind you. Oklahomans want to give you a second chance," the governor said.

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THINK about it

Trump and Rudy Giuliani's impeachment defense pushes America closer to a "mafia state," lawyer Teri Kanefield writes in an opinion pi


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One fun thing

Astronauts have to deal with a lot of quirks and deprivations in space.

But thanks to a few scientists, freshly baked cookies may not be among them soon.

Thanks to what can best be described as a high-tech, intergalactic Easy Bake Oven, a new era of space food may be on the horizon.

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Thanks, Petra