ATLANTA - Thursday Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger was the first subpoenaed witness to testify in front of a special purpose grand jury investigating whether anyone, including former President Donald Trump, should face charges for trying to influence the results of the 2020 election.
Sec. Raffensperger did not take questions from reporters gathered outside the courthouse when he arrived shortly before 9:00 a.m., but did wave and smile.
Fulton County empaneled 23 jurors and 3 alternates for the grand jury last month.
"So, the nature of the special grand jury in Georgia, it's very rare to be used and it's often to try to unearth evidence in very complex cases," explained Georgia State University law professor Anthony Kreis. "And typically, these are public corruption cases, which this is akin to. And so, unlike a regular grand jury, where the question is really more of is there enough evidence for an indictment, what we want here is an investigation."
Raffensperger's testimony likely centered around a phone call made by the then-President to Raffensperger in January 2021. During that call, President Trump seemed to urge Sec. Raffensperger to change the results.
"I just want to find 11,780 voters, which is one more than we have," Trump said in the recorded call.
President Trump lost Georgia to Joe Biden by 11,779 votes.
"I heard what the president said," Sec. Raffensperger told the FOX 5 I-Team Wednesday. "And I understand that he has tremendous positional power, but also know that we all follow the constitution."
Sec. Raffensperger's wife, Tricia Raffensperger, also appeared at the Fulton County Courthouse Thursday. Like her husband, Mrs. Raffensperger received death threats in the wake of the 2020 election.
Kreis said using a special purpose grand jury is a way for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to avoid what he labeled a "political predicament."
"On the one hand, there are a lot of liberals in [Fulton County] who want to see Donald Trump and his associates prosecuted for what happened, particularly with his phone call with Brad Raffensperger in the aftermath of the election," said Kreis. "And there are a lot of people who will also suggest that her investigation might be hyperpolitical and that might be a criticism that she wants to fend off from the right. So I think what this investigation is really about and the reason for the special grand jury is to ensure that that everything is followed by the book."
The special grand jury has up to a year to complete their investigation and make any recommendations.
Raffensperger was subpoenaed to appear before the Fulton County special grand jury. Five other people in his office have received subpoenas to appear in early June and the office has received a subpoena for documents. State Attorney General Chris Carr has received a subpoena to appear June 21.
FOX 5 sat down with Raffensperger on Wednesday. When asked if he was nervous about testifying, Georgia's election chief said "not at all."
"We followed the law, and we followed the constitution," he said. "I heard what the President said, and I understand that he has tremendous positional power, but also I know that we followed the law, and we followed the constitution."
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and her team had the opportunity Wednesday to sit down with the full special grand jury. A source told the FOX 5 I-Team's Dale Russell the team gave grand jurors an overview of what Willis' office has already learned from some 50 witnesses who volunteered information along with a blueprint of what is to come.
A number of Fulton County Sheriff's deputies were on hand, some with rifles, others with bomb sniffing dogs, outside the Fulton County Courthouse. Security was stepped up after the district attorney received threats after she announced the formation of the special grand jury.
Speaking to FOX 5 in May, Willis said, "I don't think this is a joke."
Twenty-three grand jurors and three alternates were chosen on May 2. Part of the session was shown live to the public. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who is overseeing the special grand jury, told grand jurors they will be investigating actions surrounding the 2020 general election.
The Fulton County special grand jury will examine whether anyone broke the law during the tumultuous days leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capital.
Anyone, including former President Donald Trump.
On a recorded phone call following his election defeat, the then-President directly urged Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to throw out what Trump considered to be fraudulent votes which would give him the electoral victory.
"We are looking at the issues surrounding the 2020 election. That call is part of that investigation," Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis told the I-Team.
The grand jury is also expected to hear testimony regarding Rudy Giuliani's claims before the Georgia legislature of stolen votes - claims that have been debunked.
Another topic for review, Sen. Lindsey Graham's call to Raffensperger when Graham asked Raffensperger if he could throw out all the absentee ballots in a county that had a high number of mismatched signatures on mail-in votes.
A spokesperson for Graham called it "a ridiculous accusation." While acknowledging the call, he said Graham "never asked the Secretary of State to disqualify a ballot cast by anyone."
"The right to vote is very, very important. Making sure that that's not tainted or that it's not impacted in any way, it is a very serious thing," Willis said.
It's not clear what if any charges Willis could choose to pursue against Trump or anyone else. In a letter she sent to top-ranking state officials last year, she said she was looking into "potential violations of Georgia law prohibiting the solicitation of election fraud, the making of false statements to state and local government bodies, conspiracy, racketeering, violation of oath of office and any involvement in violence or threats related to the election's administration."
FOX 5 reached out to former President Trump's office for comment regarding the special grand jury. We have not heard back.