Commerce secretary takes leave of absence

Carolyn Kaster/AP

Commerce Secretary John Bryson, involved in separate traffic accidents in California over the weekend, informed President Obama on Monday evening that he is taking medical leave to cope with an unspecified illness. Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank will serve as acting secretary in his absence.

 Bryson had a seizure, according to a spokeswoman earlier in the day.

"Secretary Bryson informed the White House tonight that he will be taking a medical leave of absence from his position as Commerce secretary as he undergoes tests and evaluations," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.

"The president’s thoughts are with Secretary Bryson and his family during this time. Secretary Bryson assured the White House that the Commerce Department staff will not miss a beat in their work helping America’s businesses compete,” Carney said.

Earlier Monday, the Commerce Department announced in a statement that Bryson suffered a seizure that may have caused the erratic driving that led to the traffic mishaps and the authorities subsequent discovery of an unconscious Bryson behind the wheel. Law enforcement officials said there was no evidence of drug or alcohol as a contributing factor in the accidents, though Bryson was cited in one case for fleeing the scene of an accident.

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