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Commerce Secretary Bryson resigns following health scare

NBC's Mike Viqueira reports onĀ  why John Bryson has decided to leave his post.

 

Commerce Secretary John Bryson resigned from his position on Thursday in the wake of a health scare that prompted media scrutiny.

In a letter to department colleagues, Bryson said that he had informed President Barack Obama of his resignation, and said that Rebecca Blank, who's been serving as acting secretary since he began a medical leave of absence on June 11, would continue to serve in that role.

"The work that you do to help America's entrepreneurs and businesses build our economy and create jobs is more important now than ever and I have come to the conclusion that I need to step down to prevent distractions from this critical mission," Bryson said.

Federal officials say the 68-year-old secretary suffered several seizures while driving back home in California on the weekend of June 8-10. Those seizures reportedly contributed to two automobile accidents, and he allegedly fled the scene of one.

"I want to extend my deepest thanks and appreciation to John for his service over the past months, and wish him and his family the very best," the president said in a statement, in which he noted he accepted Bryson's resignation on Wednesday evening.

"As Secretary, John fought tirelessly for our nation’s businesses and workers, helping to bolster our exports and promote American manufacturing and products at home and abroad.  John has proven himself an effective and distinguished leader throughout his career in both the public and private sectors, from his success in the business world to his work leading on issues in the renewable energy industry."

News of the accidents wasn't made known until the following Monday, and the president reportedly hadn't been briefed about the incidents for some time after they occurred.

Bryson took a leave of absence after the accidents; he first became commerce secretary in October of 2011.

Whether Obama will bother to nominate an immediate successor to Bryson is unclear. With the impending election season nearing, it would be tough to steer a nominee through a divided Senate, and a new secretary might be named pending the outcome of November's election.

Obama said we was confident in Blank to continue serving as acting secretary.