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Obama urges Commerce secretary to focus on his health

June 12, 2012|By Michael A. Memoli
  • President Obama disembarks from Marine One helicopter in Owings Mills, Maryland on June 12, 2012.
President Obama disembarks from Marine One helicopter in Owings Mills,… (Jewel Samad / AFP/Getty…)

WASHINGTON -- President Obama phoned Commerce Secretary John Bryson Tuesday morning and encouraged him to "focus his thoughts on his own health, on his own family," a White House spokesman said.

The brief conversation was the first between Obama and his cabinet secretary after Bryson was allegedly involved in a series of auto accidents Saturday that apparently resulted from a seizure.

Police found Bryson unconscious at the wheel of his Lexus after allegedly hitting two vehicles in the San Gabriel Valley, authorities said. He was cited for felony hit-and-run but was not booked because he was taken to an area hospital.

Monday night, the White House announced that Bryson would be taking a temporary leave of absence, turning over day-to-day responsibilities to Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank.

White House spokesman Joshua Earnest, briefing reporters in Maryland before the first of six campaign fundraisers the president has scheduled, said Obama expressed confidence in Blank's ability to lead the Commerce Department in Bryson's absence.

There is no timetable for Bryson to return, and Earnest said he could not speak to why Bryson opted for a medical leave rather than resigning.

michael.memoli@latimes.com

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