Updated, 11:55 a.m.
Less than two weeks after taking medical leave in the wake of multiple car accidents, U.S. Commerce Secretary John Bryson has resigned. Bryson sent a letter informing President Obama of his resignation Wednesday night, according to a Commerce Department official, and told his staff of his decision in a letter circulated Thursday morning.
Bryson’s departure began with a troubling incident on June 9, when the 68-year-old Commerce secretary, a longtime energy executive, was involved in a series of car accidents near his Southern California home. In one, Bryson rear-ended a car stopped at a railroad crossing, got out of his Lexus and offered to exchange information with the passengers in the damaged vehicle before speeding off, according to police reports. He collided with another car shortly thereafter and was found unconscious in his vehicle at the scene. According to police, there there was no indication that alcohol or drugs contributed to the accidents. Aides said he suffered a seizure.
It was this condition, which prompted Bryson to take medical leave two days after the incidents, that the Secretary cited in tendering his resignation to the president during a conversation on Wednesday night. “I have concluded that the seizure I suffered on June 9th could be a distraction from my performance as Secretary and that our country could be better served by a change in leadership of the Department,” he wrote to Obama. He had served in the post since last fall, filling a vacancy left when former Secretary Gary Locke decamped for Beijing to become the nation’s top envoy to China.
Bryson’s deputy, Rebecca Blank, will continue to serve as Acting Secretary, Obama said in a statement Thursday morning announcing that he had accepted Bryson’s resignation. While the President’s statement was dense with praise for Bryson, his departure closes a chapter that some conservatives had sought to cast as another example of tumult within the Obama Administration’s ranks. It was, as Bryson suggested, a distraction.
The Commerce Department official did not say whether whether or not the White House had sought Bryson’s resignation.