WASHINGTON-- President Donald Trump is relishing the rolling back of federal rules in his administration's first year even as critics say he has tried to dismantle important protections for the environment, consumers and others.

"By ending excessive regulation we are defending democracy and draining the swamp," Trump said Thursday, flanked by administration officials at a White House event. The effort is driven by Trump's contention there are too many rules and that's stifling economic growth -- a claim critics say is overstated.

Trump signed an executive order days after taking office in January that directed agencies to identify two regulations to cut for every new one they intended to issue. Agencies also had to offset any new regulatory costs with cuts by eliminating existing rules.

Trump said government agencies have achieved a 22-to-1 ratio of regulatory cuts to new rules.

"Let's cut the red tape, let's set free our dreams," Trump said as he symbolically cut a ribbon on stacks of paper representing the size of the regulatory code.

Deregulation has been a priority during a year in which Trump's legislative agenda has faced headwinds. Trump's former strategist, Steve Bannon, has described the goal as "the deconstruction of the administrative state."