WikiLeaks Emails Allegedly Show Clinton Campaign Adviser Considering 'Swift Boat'-Style Attack on Donald Trump

PHOTO: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump speaks during a campaign rally, Oct. 5, 2016, in Henderson, Nevada; Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton arrives at Toledo Express Airport, Oct. 3, 2016, in Swanton, Ohio.PlayRobyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images; Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
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The anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks posted on Monday an email exchange that it claims shows top Hillary Clinton campaign staffers discussing a “swift boat project” aimed at Donald Trump.

“I know you can’t look past Bernie and March primaries — but who is in charge of the Trump swift boat project? Needs to be ready, funded and unleashed when we decide — not a half assed scramble,” one of the campaign’s consultants, Joel Johnson, purportedly wrote to Clinton’s communications director, Jen Palmieri, in February of this year.

“Gee. Thanks, Joel. We thought we could half-ass it,” Palmieri purportedly replied, sarcastically.

“Swift boat” refers to the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, a group behind a coordinated campaign to discredit then-Sen. John Kerry during his presidential run in 2004. The phrase has become Washington-speak for an attack that is personal, ugly and often untrue.

ABC News reached out to Johnson for comment but did not immediately hear back.

The emails posted Monday are among more than 30,000 emails allegedly hacked from accounts of Clinton’s senior staff and dumped over the last few weeks in the WikiLeaks database. The emails seem to include several hundred if not thousands of duplicates and redundancies.

In response, the Clinton campaign released a statement today, saying, “In a brazen display of collusion, Russian state owned television continues to promote WikiLeaks’ releases even before [WikiLeaks founder Julian] Assange can do it even after it’s been proven beyond any reasonable doubt that the Russians are the source of the purported [Clinton campaign chairman John] Podesta material. Given a third opportunity on the debate stage to admit and condemn the Kremlin’s actions, Donald Trump refused to do it and instead continues to act as Putin’s puppet despite being briefed by U.S. intelligence. It is bizarre and disqualifying that he continues to cheer on this attack on our democracy. It is time for Donald Trump to tell the American people what he knows and when he knew it.”

The campaign’s chief strategist, Joel Benenson, told ABC News’ “This Week” Sunday that he has seen things in the emails that “we know aren’t authentic.” He declined to elaborate.

Benenson, like most of Clinton’s other campaign staffers commenting on the issue, was quick to pivot to the fact that U.S. intelligence agencies have said Russian actors are responsible for the recent hacks, the targets of which have included U.S. political organizations such as the Democratic National Committee.

“They are meddling in an American election for the first time in history,” Benenson said during the interview with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos.

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