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Serena Williams Opens Up on Postpartum Emotions; U.S. & Iranian Presidents Ready to Talk Without Preconditions; Trump Legal Team Ready to Respond to Mueller on Trump Sit-Down. Aired 11:30-12p ET

Aired August 7, 2018 - 11:30   ET


[11:30:00] KATE BOLDUAN, CNN ANCHOR: Kevin Liptak reporting, officials admit t/to being perplexed as to where Trump may have gotten the notion that California's long-running water crisis is related somehow to the out-of-control fires. Perplexed in California. Perplexed in Washington, D.C., as well, even at the White House.

Dan Simon, on the fires for us. Dan, thank you very much. Appreciate it.

Ahead for us, a towering figure in sports gets candid about a real- life issue. Tennis superstar, Serena Williams, opening up and sparking an important conversation across the country.

We'll be right back.


[11:35:07] PATRICK MACFLAGHU (ph), TENNIS COACH: I'm sure if you go one month away and you make that effort for tennis, as you talked about, what you're going to achieve in the next month?

SERENA WILLIAMS, TENNIS CHAMPION & MOTHER: So there's one problem. I'm not going anywhere without Olivia. I can't take the baby away for a month.

MACFLAGHU (ph): I don't know. Try to find a solution because it's very important.


BOLDUAN: This is very important. That's Serena Williams in her HBO documentary being very open about the joys and struggles of being a new mom and an elite athlete. Last month, Williams made it back to center court in the Wimbledon final. But just last week, but she suffered the worst loss of her career in one tournament and pulled out of another.

In an Instagram post that has the world talking, Williams is opening up again, this time about struggling with what she calls postpartum emotions. Writing on Instagram this, in part, "Last week was not easy for me. Not only was I accepting some tough personal stuff, but I was just in a funk. Mostly, I felt like I was not a good mom." And she wrote this, "We have all been there. I work a lot. I train. And I'm trying to be the best athlete I can be. However, that means, although I have been with her every day of her life, I'm not around as much as I would love to be. Most of you moms deal with the same thing, whether stay at home or working. Finding that balance with kids is a true art. You are the true heroes. And I'm here to say," Williams writes, "if you're having a rough day or week, it's OK. I am, too. There's always tomorrow."

Joining me now to discuss this, the impact of Serena Williams opening up like this, CNN sports analyst, Christine Brennan, and CNN senior medical correspondent Elizabeth Cohen, and editor-in-chief of "Marie Claire" magazine, Anne Fulenwider.

Great to have you here.

This hits so many of us, Anne. This struck you when you read it? It had me thinking all evening and morning about it. When you read that and you hear that, what do you -- what do you think? What is Serena saying?

ANNE FULENWIDER, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF, MARIE CLAIRE: I am so grateful to Serena for being honest about motherhood, especially in the early months.


FULENWIDER: When I was a new mom, years ago, I remember the power of Brooke Shields talking about postpartum depression. It's something I had not heard that much about. To hear a celebrity I admired and respected talk about that is not all rosy is incredibly powerful.

BOLDUAN: It is incredibly powerful.

But, Elizabeth, something that I'm wondering about is, is she talking about postpartum depression? Is she talking about work-life balance? Is she talking about all of it? What do you think?

DR. ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN SENIOR MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: It's interesting, Kate, when you look at her Instagram post, Serena Williams does not say she was diagnosed with postpartum depression.


COHEN: She talks about feeling in a funk. She talks about experiencing postpartum emotions. That can be different. That's not necessarily depression. I think, in the end, it doesn't matter. I think what she is talking about is what it's like to go back to work after having that cute baby there. It is difficult. I remember my first day back at CNN, an incredibly supportive place for mothers, I rode home with the first day with a friend and cried the entire ride home. I wasn't depressed. It's just that before you're a mother, you're a different person. Once you become a mother, you're not just about yourself. You're devoted to this other being. Going back to work after going through that can be tough.

BOLDUAN: Christine, I have to say, I -- I have been so impressed all along on how candid Serena has been about the journey. She is such an amazing athlete. And she is being so real about this aspect of her life. What does this mean for the sports world?

CHRISTINE BRENNAN, CNN SPORTS ANALYST: Kate, if it's possible, Serena is having her finest hours now. And this is someone who's won 23 grand slam tournaments, is seen as the greatest of all time. Maybe not just female tennis player, but of all tennis players. I think she's the greatest female athlete in any sport ever in history. Yet, I think this is each her finest achievement. Because what the remarkable thing she's done on the tennis court, I think she's now decided to branch out and be honest. She always was honest. She always was very emotional in a good way about telling us what she thought about all these tournaments over the years. And she really burst on to the scene, in 1999, that's 19 years ago, as an 18-year- old, and she won her first U.S. Open. She's gearing up again for the U.S. Open where the crowds will be absolutely crazy about her. Can you imagine the ovation? Can you imagine. Now it's not just Serena the tennis player, it's Serena the cultural icon. And what she's saying and how she's helping women and -- and new dads, fathers. It's -- really, it's Serena's shining in a way that I don't know that any of us would have expected to see. It is great to see.

BOLDUAN: And it doesn't seem planned, Anne. It just seems -- it's just authentic. She's just being herself and just being so -- there's so much strength in being open about it. Because, and you know this, as a working mom, there's always a risk, there's always -- it is always hard to show weakness or to throw up your hand and say, I need some help. And I wonder -- I don't know, maybe I'm being Pollyanna about it, but I wonder if Serena speaking up helps with that.

[11:40:19] FULENWIDER: I think it helps tremendously. I think the more honest we are all about motherhood in the beginning and how hard to say to go back to work, to decide not to go to work. The more honest we can be with each other, the better. There's a taboo about talking about the really challenging parts of motherhood. And I think the great thing about Serena's talking about it is that we're so used to her winning.


FULENWIDER: She's the high-achieving woman who probably got all "A"s. She certainly knows the game. Like you practice, and then you get the trophy. You practice, win, get the trophy. And mother hood, there's no trophy as a motherhood, right. A completely different experience. For her to be sharing that with us is powerful because we're not used to seeing her that way at all.

BOLDUAN: Our trophies are the kids, but sometimes the kids take the trophy and beat us over the head with it.



BOLDUAN: Elizabeth, I -- I never think of people appreciate and especially what Anne's talking about. People appreciate the intense change that happens in that first year of having a baby. Physical, of course. But emotional and mental. I mean, people talk about the fourth trimester for a baby. There's a fourth trimester for mothers, too. I wonder why we don't hear more about it.

COHEN: Absolutely. When you think about it, you've spent nine months carrying this little baby inside you. And then three months or whatever your maternity was doting on them and looking at them every second. And then all of a sudden, you're sitting there at a desk, and you're still in that fourth trimester. I mean, that is where you're sort of in the early stages. You are a different person after you become a mother. You're a better person. And so -- I think that we all need to remember that. And so when we talked about before, this really could be her shining moment. I think that is absolutely right. She is not just a great athlete now, but she is a great athlete and a great mother.

BOLDUAN: And, Christine, you were talking about kind of this being her shining moment. You have Serena Williams talking about an issue that she's so passionate about and so real about. You have LeBron James speaking out in the past week about what he is passionate about. And doing now a documentary. I don't know where these people find the time. Doing a documentary about the athletes and causes they care about. Are we seeing a new moment? I feel like the pendulum swings back and forth, Christine, of athletes are role models, athletes shouldn't be role models, athletes are role models.

BRENNAN: You nailed it. In the '60s, you had Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, many others. Then Michael Jordan saying Republicans buy sneakers, too. And Tiger Woods wanting to be more corporate. I think you're right. Now, we're looking at athlete activism in a way that I don't know that we've seen. It's coming from everywhere. What's great is that athletes have a voice and bring people to a conversation who, otherwise, would not be included. So whether it's bad things like the Ohio State story right now or the Michigan State horrors of USA Gymnastics or important issues and happy things with the baby and then difficult issues involving that that with Serena Williams. You have someone with a voice, Serena Williams, who has a way to reach people and brings people into a conversation who, otherwise, might be left out of the conversation. Sports is this great common denominator. Now it's bringing us to the issues in a meaningful way.

BOLDUAN: I so want to see Serena Williams on the cover of "Marie Claire" again. I want to see her grace the pages of your magazine and see any conversation that you would have.


BOLDUAN: Anne, what's your -- what's your, I don't know, message to Serena today?

FULENWIDER: Just thank you. Thank you, from me and from all the new mothers out there. And thank you for sharing it on Instagram. There's a lot of talk about --


FULENWIDER: -- how everyone's lives look beautiful on Instagram.

BOLDUAN: Yes. FULENWIDER: For her to be honest and raw on Instagram is really


BOLDUAN: Great to see you guys.

Thank you, Anne.


BOLDUAN: Great to see you, Christine.

Great to see you, Elizabeth.

Thank you both.

COHEN: Thank you very much.

[11:44:00] BOLDUAN: And thanks, Serena, as Anne said.

Coming up for us, President Trump says he just slapped Iran with what he calls the most biting sanctions ever imposed. Iran's leader says, let's talk. What happens now? That's next.


BOLDUAN: "Let's start right now" -- that's what Iran's president is now saying about holding talks with the U.S. over Tehran's nuclear program and sanctions the Trump administration just re-imposed this morning.

President Trump today tweeting this, "These are the most biting sanctions ever imposed, and in November, they ratchet up to yet another level. Anyone doing business with Iran will not be doing business with the United States. I am asking for world peace, nothing less."

So now this is what we have. Both the U.S. and Iranian presidents saying they're ready to meet without preconditions. So now what?

Joining me now, CNN global affairs analyst, Aaron David Miller, who served as Middle East negotiator for Republican and Democratic administrations.

Aaron, help me with this one. You think they should plan a sit-down with Iran, but not a summit. What are you looking for? What should happen here?

AARON DAVID MILLER, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS ANALYST: You know what the end game is, Kate, is unclear. What we don't need is another summit -- what I call another summit of the vanities, either with Putin or even with Kim. Talking to North Korea was important. It's just these unstructured summits, which are a reflection of the president's desire to dominate the headlines and to somehow personally believe he can turn these leaders to his advantage doesn't work out very well. So, no, I mean, we ought to be talking to the Iranians if only to diffuse the possibilities of tension in the gulf and tone down some of the rhetoric, but there's got to be some sense of strategy. For now, it's good politics to weaken Iran. As long as the president stays out of a war and the Iranians don't ramp up their nuclear program, this is a kind of muddle-through strategy, which will probably get you through the midterms.

[11:50:21] BOLDUAN: Just through the midterms. All right.


BOLDUAN: No, I hear you.


BOLDUAN: But there's the long game, Aaron.

MILLER: We could flip a coin. You asked me what the strategy is. We could flip a coin. It's the same with North Korea, with Putin, with Arab/Israeli stuff.

BOLDUAN: I hear you.

MILLER: I mean, it's hard.

BOLDUAN: Let's not -- it's hard, that's why I bring you on. I never bring you on for the easy stuff, my friend.

Trump's national security adviser, John Bolton, was out again today talking about the renewed sanctions on Iran. Let me play you what he said.


JOHN BOLTON, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISOR: The implications are already pretty profound. They'll grow more profound in November when the oil- related sanctions kick in as well.


BOLDUAN: What's the real impact you think of the sanctions? I mean, the sanctions were on, the sanctions were relieved, the sanctions are now going back on. Does this change behavior like the administration is hoping for, you think?

MILLER: It's certainly not going to change the regime, not any time soon. As far as changing behavior, I don't think so. Not without a -- look, the administration can apply a lot of vinegar. The question is whether they're prepared to apply some honey in order to create the possibility of some sort of negotiation. But then you have to ask yourself, well, what are we negotiating? We're going back to the nuclear deal with the president that says it's the worst agreement in the history of the world. As far as a comprehensive agreement, one that stops Iran's activities in the region, gets a better deal for Mr. Trump on the nuclear issue, I don't think neither Iran nor Mr. Trump is prepared to pay the price for that. I wouldn't rule out, though, Kate -- six, seven times already it's been in the wind -- that sometime this fall, maybe against the backdrop of the U.N. General Assembly, there will, in fact, be another summit of the vanities. I'd settle for a secret channel -- I wouldn't surprise me if they're working on it even now -- to try to create a structured dialogue to see what's possible now between the U.S. and Iran. That's the best you're going to hope for.

BOLDUAN: Yes, when there are so many other countries who still want to be part of the now non-U.S.-included nuclear deal.

Aaron, great to see you. Thank you so much.

MILLER: Take care, Kate.

BOLDUAN: Let's see what happens tomorrow.


BOLDUAN: Coming up for us, Rudy Giuliani says the president's legal team is ready to respond to Special Counsel Robert Mueller. What Giuliani's forecasting that he doesn't want the president to talk about. And whether or not that means the president will ever sit down with the special counsel. That's next.


[11:57:36] BOLDUAN: Ready to respond, it seems. President Trump's legal team still weighing whether to let him be interviewed by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. But Trump's lead attorney Rudy Giuliani is now telling the "Washington Post" this in an interview, "We have a real reluctance about allowing any questions about obstruction." Just as he also tells CNN he'll be responding to the latest interview request in a letter within days. What's the hold up? Where are we now?

CNN White House correspondent, Kaitlan Collins, is following all of this for us.

So, Kaitlan, this is like a cat-and-mouse game. The president always says he wants to talk to Robert Mueller. Giuliani continues to do interviews to talk about why they don't want him to talk to Mueller now or if at all. What is the reality here?

KAITLAN COLLINS, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, the reality here, Kate, is that the president has been at odds for months over whether or not he's going to sit down with the special counsel, at odds with his legal team over that. So Rudy Giuliani is saying they're prepared to respond to the latest proposal from the special counsel. You'll remember that proposal is a proposal that said they would be willing to limit the number of questions about obstruction of justice, but that those were still questions they wanted to ask President Trump in person. We know that's not what the president's legal team, including Rudy Giuliani, wants to happen, if there's an interview. They, instead, want the questions to be limited to questions about collusion and events that occurred before President Trump actually took office and was inaugurated.

So for eight months now, we've really had this cat-and-mouse game. That's a great way to put it. It's been this back and forth between the two of them. That seems to be what we're getting here because Giuliani says they're prepared to respond, but a real reluctance about those questions of obstruction of justice, he told "the Washington post," which doesn't really shed a lot of light on whether or not this interview is actually going to move forward -- Kate?

BOLDUAN: That's exactly right, Kaitlan. A lot of talking, not a lot of clarity.

Real quick, the president is tweeting about Ohio and the special election this morning. Do we know if he's going to be watching the returns come in tonight?

COLLINS: He'll likely be watching, Kate. He often does. He's at dinner with some CEOs, but he does typically watch returns like this, especially a race he's become invested in, in the last few weeks. He travelled to Ohio. This is really a race that's going to put a Trump factor to the test. Likely, the president will be watching, most likely tweeting, too.

BOLDUAN: That is one of the only certainties there's in life. Like death and taxes.

Kaitlan, great to see you. Thank you so much.

And thank you all so much for joining me AT THIS HOUR.

A very important day to be handing it off to my friend, John King. And "INSIDE POLITICS" starts right now.