Conventional wisdom in Washington tends to treat impeachment as a fringe crusade, on a par with campaigns by antifluoridation activists or UFO enthusiasts, and views Pelosi as right to resist this momentum. Many believe it would be a political disaster for Democrats, galvanizing Trump’s base and alienating moderates. Republicans have taken to goading their opponents to try it, while White House officials say they relish the prospect of the Democratic Party tearing itself apart over the issue. “It would play right into our hands,” says a House Republican leadership aide.

But Pelosi is actually playing a deeper game. Her aides note that she’s never ruled impeachment out. All she’s done, they say, is set a standard: increased popular support and some degree of GOP backing. Behind the scenes, she and her team are working to see that standard is met. “The easy thing to do would be to start down the path of impeachment. That’s a trap,” a senior Democratic aide tells TIME. “Now that we have the gavel and can expose all of this wrongdoing, I think you will start to see a shift in public opinion and movement of Republicans.”…

But there are already signs Pelosi’s standard could be met. Public support for Trump’s impeachment hovers around 45% in recent polls. That’s the highest for any President since Richard Nixon, whose impeachment was favored by 43% of Americans in March 1974, five months before he resigned. Large majorities say they would favor Trump’s impeachment and removal from office if Mueller finds he authorized coordination with Russia or obstructed justice. To date, congressional Republicans have staunchly defended the President, who has the overwhelming support of the party’s voters. But their calculation could change. “Someday, all of a sudden, it’s going to be like the Berlin Wall coming down,” George Conway, the prominent conservative lawyer and Trump critic who is married to White House counselor Kellyanne Conway, says of Republican support for the President. “You never know what straw is going to break the camel’s back. But I firmly believe this is going to happen.”