Obama calls Commerce secretary after weekend hit-and-run

President Obama called Commerce Secretary John Bryson Tuesday after the Cabinet official said he would take a medical leave of absence following a pair of traffic accidents over the weekend.

White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest said the president called Bryson before leaving for a fundraiser in Maryland Tuesday morning. The call was short, and the president encouraged Bryson to "focus his thoughts on his own health, on his own family," Earnest said.

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It was the first time the two men had spoken since the accidents this weekend. There is no timetable for Bryson's return from medical leave.

A spokesman for the Commerce Department said that Bryson had suffered a seizure around the time he was involved in two road accidents in Los Angeles. Bryson was admitted to a hospital in the area and cited for felony hit-and-run after the accident, according to the San Gabriel Police Department.

A police report cited by CNN said Bryson had been driving a Lexus and rear-ended another vehicle that was stopped at a railroad crossing.


The Cabinet secretary allegedly spoke to the occupants of the other vehicle before leaving the scene, in the process striking the other car again.

He then allegedly struck a second vehicle driven by a couple in the neighboring city of Rosemead, the police statement said.

Officers arriving on the scene found him unconscious in his car and he was taken to a local hospital for treatment.

A police statement on Monday said the investigation was still in its “preliminary stages.”

“At this point in time, there is no indication that alcohol or drugs played a role in the collisions,” said the police report.

The accidents happened on Saturday night, however, the White House was not notified until Sunday evening. Chief of Staff Jack Lew spoke to Bryson on Monday.

White House press secretary Jay Carney said Monday the president was "concerned" about the incident and Bryson's health.

"[We're] still in the process of gathering information," Carney said, adding there’s "still more that needs to be learned."

—Vicki Needham and Meghashyam Mali contributed.