In an at-times-combative interview Wednesday on NPR, Newt Gingrich urged President Donald Trump not to fire Attorney General Jeff Sessions. But, having met with Trump personally the day before, Gingrich provided a real window into Trump’s justification for doing so: It’s all about the deep state, and they’re “paid killers.”


Gingrich’s case boils down to the Justice Department being an inherently corrupt, left-leaning organization that, left to its own devices, will unfairly try to take Trump down. Sessions was the guy who could have prevented that, but he recused himself.


“The president’s deeply troubled, and I think that he’s legitimately troubled,” Gingrich said, adding: “I think that he’s deeply troubled by the entire way that both [former FBI director James] Comey and [special counsel Robert] Mueller have operated and the degree to which the attorney general has not exercised any authority over that.”


When the interviewer, NPR’s Rachel Martin, noted that it’s not the attorney general’s job to protect the president, Gingrich - tellingly - quibbled with the premise.


“No, that’s not true. It is the attorney general’s job to enforce the law,” Gingrich noted. He added that there was not yet any evidence of a crime. “So what is Mueller investigating?” he said. “Mueller’s engaged in a fishing expedition.”


Gingrich pointed repeatedly to a study showing 97 percent of donations from Justice Department employees went to Hillary Clinton in 2016 and reports that basically all of the donations from Mueller’s law firm have gone to Democrats. He mentioned a book by Sidney Powell, a former federal prosecutor, about alleged corruption in the department.


“If you believe the Justice Department doesn’t have a deep cultural bias, and you believe that the average conversation at the Justice Department is not anti-Trump, you’re living in a fantasyland,” Gingrich said. “And that’s the president’s frustration.”


He added: “In terms of the people Mueller’s hiring, these are paid killers.”


If this is truly a reflection of what Trump believes - that the special counsel investigation is inherently out to crucify him and that its mere existence assures that outcome - then that explains why he would do just about anything to stop it.


The alternate explanation, of course, is that Trump actually has something to hide, and he’ll do whatever it takes to prevent Mueller from uncovering it - up to and including trying to get rid of his own attorney general as a means to also getting rid of Mueller. Why be afraid of something if you didn’t do anything wrong? Martin asked Gingrich about that.


“You look at that record, you would assume automatically, Mueller’s going to get somebody,” he said. “And there’s no question in my mind: Mueller’s bought in killers, those killers are gonna go out and find somebody.”


Whether this is political cover for Trump or how Trump actually feels, it’s a striking argument to make. It’s the very definition of a deep-state conspiracy theory, in fact. And it’s apparently at the root of whatever decision Trump will make next when it comes to Sessions.


Aaron Blake is a Washington Post columnist.